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Bolstering SA’s Healthcare System One Nurse At A Time

  • 4 min read

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that a country with fewer than 23 doctors per 10 000 citizens would be insufficient to achieve coverage of primary healthcare needs1. However, WHO’s latest data reveals that South Africa has 9 medical doctors per 10 000 citizens2. To deal with this shortage, it is crucial to empower nurses and introduce increased para-skilling within the healthcare system. 

According to Rhulani Nhlaniki, Country Manager at Pfizer South Africa, it is for this reason that Pfizer joined forces with Unjani Clinics – a network of clinics that provide quality, affordable and accessible primary healthcare to underserved communities in South Africa. This is done via a three-pronged approach:

Empowering black women professional nurses 

Unjani Clinics comprises 75 clinics in South Africa which are founded on a nurse-owned and operated, primary healthcare model, that is aimed at helping to change the face of healthcare in the country.

Every time a new clinic is opened, a black woman professional nurse is empowered to own her very own primary health clinic, employ two staff members and provide a much-needed alternative health delivery service to the communities they operate in.

 Creating permanent jobs

South Africa has grappled with dire unemployment rates for decades, with the most recent number of unemployed persons increasing by 7.5 percentage points to 30.8% in Q3 2020, according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey released by Statistics SA3.

As such, the permanent jobs created by Unjani Clinics is something that is much needed in the country. To grow their jobs further, the nurses are continually trained, mentored and given the necessary systems and support to operate a quality, affordable primary care clinic. To date, the Unjani clinics network has empowered more than 75 female professional nurses, created jobs for in excess of 260 people across the country and conducted more than 1 370 000 consultations.

Providing alternate access to quality primary healthcare

 South Africa has a population of 59 million people, of which only about 10 million people have private medical insurance. The balance of the population either pays out of pocket or relies on the public healthcare system for their healthcare needs. Government facilities are under significant pressure and often struggle to provide the quality and convenient primary care services that many patients require. 

Unjani Clinics’ service reduces the burden on the public health system whilst allowing patients to receive quality, accessible and affordable private healthcare when they need it.  

Lynda Toussaint, CEO at Unjani Clinics explained that the network is reliant on funding from donors such as Pfizer in order to operate and expand. “The main costs associated with the projects include infrastructure, clinic equipment and initial working capital, and these partnerships greatly assist us to continue to empower more nurses and serve more communities across South Africa.” 

“Our support for Unjani Clinics is based on our core value of equity where we express our commitment to reducing healthcare disparities as well as our belief that every person deserves to be seen, heard and cared for,” said Nhlaniki.

“We have sponsored six clinics, and with funding from the Pfizer Foundation, the most recent sponsorship reached completion at the end of 2020,” he added. “Through the Pfizer Foundation, we have also provided funding for the procurement of 57 basic Ultrasonic Diagnostic Imaging Systems to support maternal health, and have provided certified training for 57 clinics in the network. In addition, we are providing training for 65 Unjani Clinics Nurses to obtain Nurse Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Therapy Certification.”  

 “We applaud the nurses who provide quality, primary affordable healthcare to underserved areas while building their own businesses and creating the much-needed jobs in South Africa. As such, we look forward to working with Unjani Clinics going forward in order to grow their network even further in the future,” Nhlaniki concluded. 


1. WHO | Achieving the health-related MDGs. It takes a workforce! 2018 Nov 6 [cited 2020 Dec 7]; Available from:

2. Medical doctors (per 10 000 population) [Internet]. [cited 2020 Dec 7]. Available from:

3. Statistics South Africa : This web site requires JavaScript [Internet]. [cited 2020 Dec 7]. Available from: