There is a need to regulate the health care profession to ensure equity, the Academy of Science of SA said in the report into the challenges facing health education in South Africa.
According to a Pretoria News report, the ASSAf study looked at, among other issues, internships, the criteria for selecting interns to go into medical schools, and their apparent deep embedding in an inequitable society.
The Reconceptualising Health Professions Education in South Africa report stated the burden of disease, shortage of trained healthcare personnel, particularly in rural areas, and the ongoing higher education crisis places unique challenges on the health sciences education sector.
The report says the study was conducted by a 10-member panel to address the full value chain in health sciences education. The panel unpacked the system and looked at how the future health sciences education system could be financed and regulated.
Panel chair Professor Jimmy Volmink said the purpose of the study was to examine the most relevant and evidence-based-cases and make recommendations to stakeholders. “One of the purposes of the study is to reflect on the mix of personnel and skills required to assess the state of health care professionals in South Africa,” he said.
Among the stakeholders invited was University of Pretoria chair for the school of health care sciences Mavis Mulaudzi. She said the report dealt with local important aspects. “The common theme of the report was equity; an effort was made in broadening the challenges faced by students. “As the university we were pleased to hear that implementations will be made so students go into the community during their internships, and not only do their internships at hospitals.” She said the panel should not stop at releasing the report but should revisit the recommendations and implementations.
The report says the panel made 16 recommendations to a wide-ranging audience, including policymakers and educators. The recommendations became topics of discussion at the release, and selection and training were at the top of the list. The study says selection and training of healthcare professionals should be orientated towards addressing inequity and meeting the needs of the most under-served, through supporting a primary care focus and increasing the supply of healthcare professionals to rural areas.
Some of the recommendations made was the need to conceptualise student selection with the aim of evaluating a broader set of criteria than those currently in use. Another topic widely discussed by stakeholders was the strengthening of health professionals’ education for practice in rural areas and under-served areas.
The panel recommended higher education institutions prioritise applicants from rural and remote areas to address the urban-rural maldistribution of graduates in the country. Public sector academic institutions needed to be strengthened to scale up the production of healthcare professionals. Universities had to take responsibility for education and professional development from undergraduate years through to internship and community service.
Volmink said there was a need to take urgent action to improve the governance of health sciences funding by strengthening the capacity and accelerating the momentum of the Joint Health Science Education Committee.
The study report was handed over to health councils and committees in the country.