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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Medical graduates need guaranteed internship placement

Bonile Khanyi

Government needs to come up with a very clear policy that will ensure all final year medical students are placed in an internship, says the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa (JUDASA).

Nearly 300 final-year students have not been placed for internships next year and they’ve now taken their frustrations to social media, under the hashtag #UnemployedDoctors, to complain about their uncertain futures.

According to the Health Professions Act, medical graduates have to complete an internship followed by a year of community service before they can qualify.

However, young graduates have not been able to find placement due to an ongoing lack of available posts.

This has prompted a call on Premiers and the Finance Minister to address the looming crisis.

Speaking to Inside Education on Monday, JUDASA Secretary-General Dr Michael Van Niekerk, said he failed to understand how provincial departments did not know the number of people who needed to enter the profession by next year.

“As it stands, there are currently 280 unfunded posts that need to be filled next year,” said Van Niekerk.

“This is a big crisis because in South Africa we have one of the highest patients to doctor ratios in a society with a quadruple burden of disease and therefore we know that it is an essential service that needs to be fulfilled and that won’t be the case by the beginning of next year.”

“The worrisome problem here is that this is something that we highlighted at the beginning of the year already. We had a massive problem with placement last year and we foresaw this and it doesn’t make sense for the provincial department of health not to know the number of people that need to enter the profession by 1 January 2018 when this is something we’ve been dealing with annually,” said Van Niekerk.

Van Niekerk said since there was a clear indication that the problem will only persist, the government needs to come up with a policy that will guarantee graduates are placed in an internship every year.

“We need to realise that this is going to get worse, the number of medical graduates are being increased from a medical point of view and we know that South African Cuban trained doctors are also entering the system again by 2018 and 2019. Which means that the influx of numbers of doctors will increase, but the funding is decreasing,” said Van Niekerk.

“The department of health is sitting at a massive budget deficit at this moment. So there needs to be very clear policies in terms of how we’re going to guarantee placement next year.”

“The first would be to get a national standardised database immediately from the 1st of January to find out how many graduates per university have a maximum number who will be graduating by the end of this year.”

“And treasury and the provincial departments will have to source funding from January knowing that the application is supposed to start.”

Van Niekerk said all stakeholders involved need to start this as soon as possible to avert the same problem next year.

“We implore the department and the IDC to start this soon next year so that when they start this early in the year that we can see these provinces and try to foresee them and have a firm strategy to try and cope with it,” concluded Van Niekerk.

 

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