Inspiring others towards rural health

Who are we?

The Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA) strives inspire others towards rural healthcare in South Africa. Our aim is to support and empower those committed to making health care available to all South Africans.

Our Vision

RuDASA began in 1996 with a group of vocal, dedicated and passionate rural doctors, initially based in KwaZulu-Natal. We have since gained members from across the country, resulting in a dynamic, membership-based organization which strives for better health care in rural areas.

Our Mission

RuDASA is here to help. We are a network of professionals: many are from rural facilities and university-linked rural health centres across South Africa, working on the ground with an in-depth understanding of the challenges faced by rural doctors. Thus, RuDASA combines skills and experience in order to support our members, give them a voice, connect them to each other, and promote knowledge transfer.

What do we do?

RuDASA is a network of rural health care professionals, and provides numerous opportunities for members to connect, share concerns and challenges, highlight good practices and put forward innovative ideas. RuDASA members are therefore able to request assistance on a variety of issues. Other doctors can assist by sharing their knowledge and experiences, and where appropriate, the committee can attempt to help to address issues, escalating them through the correct channels by drawing on RuDASA’s collective expertise and partnerships.

RuDASA also aims to be a resource of rural expertise for the South African Government and other stakeholders. We have become involved in a number of initiatives to lobby for and address the needs of rural doctors and other health professionals. RuDASA has taken on a prominent advocacy role in terms of pushing for improved health in rural areas in general, as well as addressing specific topics, such as the availability of posts in rural hospitals and drug shortages. From time to time, RuDASA has issued open letters and press statements, often with partner organizations, to create public awareness of the plight, challenges and successes of rural health care professionals.

Advocacy Work


Since its establishment, RuDASA has aimed to create awareness of the plight, challenges and successes of rural doctors and other health professionals by implementing various advocacy strategies. These range from open letters and press statements, often with partner organizations, to making inputs into policy developments, and advising and supporting rural health care workers with local health care service delivery challenges.


Amongst its core partners are SECTION27 and Wits Centre for Rural Health with whom RuDASA formed the Rural Health Advocacy Project in 2009. In this new partnership RuDASA has taken up and contributed to many advocacy issues; including the rural-proofing of the Primary Health Care Revitalisation Strategy, advocacy around OSD and the Minimum Service Level Agreement, formulation of and advocacy for short and long term rural recruitment and retention strategies and the freezing of medical posts, to name a few.

Examples include

2022: RuDASA alarms Zithulele Hospital crisis, urges Health Department to sustain rural healthcare support.

2021 (December): RuDASA criticizes Health Department's quarantine guideline withdrawal, urges swift reversal for healthcare service safeguarding.

2021 (December): RuDASA worries over COVID-19 isolation rules, urges guideline review amid Omicron-driven staff shortages.

2021 (June): RuDASA suggests universal vaccine days for rural areas, aiming to immunize entire communities in one day, reducing transport costs and improving accessibility.

2020: RuDASA pushes for rural hospital oxygen upgrade amid COVID-19, stressing supplies, monitoring, and High Flow Nasal Oxygen.

2019: RuDASA seeks support for North West Province doctors, advocating for resource addressing and Prof Ebrahim Variava's reinstatement.

Working in South Africa

RuDASA believes that the long term solution for rural health care in South Africa is adequate and appropriate training of South Africans to meet the needs for health care professionals in underserved rural areas. We are involved in a number of initiatives to lobby for and address these needs. (See elsewhere on this site, including scholarship schemes and electives programmes). We also support the principle of the Melbourne Manifesto with respect to the need for a Code to govern the International Recruitment of Health Care Professionals. Within this context, it is obvious that we in South Africa will remain reliant on the services of foreign qualified doctors to staff our rural health services for many years to come.

Much of rural health care in this country has only developed through the input of overseas trained doctors, many of them in the past coming though missionary and philanthropic agencies. We owe a great debt to them. Foreign doctors have continued to provide a very important service during the transition to democracy in South Africa, many of these coming from other African countries, causing great loss of doctors from these countries in turn. The more recent difficulties created for foreign doctors, in an attempt to address this migration southwards, mainly in the form of barriers to Medical Board registration and lack of co-operation from the authorities with regard to issuing work permits to doctors already working here, have both prevented many willing health professionals from coming to South Africa and encouraged many already working here to leave for more developed countries, thus creating crises in rural areas all over the country.

The establishment of community service for all health care professionals and the employment of Cuban doctors on a government-to-government agreement have not been sufficient to address these crises.

We have lobbied persistently for a change in this situation, as part of an overall rural health strategy, and welcome the new developments in this regard, whereby the Department of Health has again started to recruit foreign qualified health professionals, the Health Professions Council to register foreign doctors without necessarily requiring an examination, and the Department of Home Affairs to issue work visas for 3 year periods.

There are still many issues to be resolved, such as the position of doctors from developing countries, and administrative hurdles to be crossed, as officials adapt to the new policies, but we believe this is a major step forward. We thus invite our suitably qualified generalist colleagues from overseas to explore the possibility of coming to assist us in rural South Africa, where the challenges are as great as the rewards. For hospital listings, look at the student electives section, or contact one of the RuDASA committee members.

Current polices and procedures: In view of the shortage of doctors in rural areas, within the Public Health Service in South Africa, the National Department of Health is seeking to recruit doctors and other health care professionals from overseas countries. The stated policy of the government is to recruit only from developed countries, and only for public service in rural areas. Full details of the Policy of the Department of Health and the Guidelines to be followed are provided on this site for your assistance. (Please note that this information is supplied by the Department of Health and its use here does not necessarily indicate endorsement by RuDASA).

In line with the government policy to recruit from developed countries, and in view of the serious shortage of doctors in rural areas, the Medical and Dental Professions Board (MDPB) of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) will consider registering foreign qualified applicants without examination. Essentially, the Board has allowed for a mechanism to fast-track of registration for doctors from developed countries.

Foreign doctors who apply to the HPCSA for registration will have their qualifications reviewed by the Examinations and Assessment Committee. If they are from an appropriate country, have a medical degree recognised as being of a good standard educationally, through curriculum reviews conducted by the HPCSA, and have appropriate post-internship experience and training, they may be assessed as eligible for registration without having to sit the HPCSA examination. The registration will be for public service practice only, and not independent practice, for a period of 3 years, potentially renewable.

The examination for registration for public service practice will continue to be held two or three annually for those doctors who do not meet these criteria, and who thus need additional assessment. For more information go to the website of the Health Professions Council. Within the Council, registration of doctors (physicians) falls under the Medical and Dental Professions Board.

Forms for registration of Foreign Qualified Practitioners are obtainable from the HPCSA