Govt mulls more SA medical schools, including private institutions

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The establishment of three new medical schools, including a private one, is under consideration, said Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, but the final decision lay with the Health department.

Nzimande broke his silence over over allegations that a syndicate were selling admission places at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Medicine School, says a Sunday Tribune report. Nzimande speaking out for the first time, said the department took the allegations seriously and commended the Hawks and the university for working together to “rid the higher education system of this scourge”. “The few bad apples who are engaging in this criminal activity of selling and buying study places must stand warned that serious action will be taken against them without mercy,” Nzimande said.

Nzimande said in the report that medicine studies were currently available at nine institutions in South Africa and said there were proposals to add more. He said allowing private institutions to offer medicine studies was under consideration. However, Nzimande said the decision to establish new medical schools lay with the Minister of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and not his department,

“Currently, three new medical schools are being considered. The idea of setting up private medical schools as a solution to the need to expand the provision of the MBChB degree is but one option open for consideration. However, this needs to be considered in the context of the broader needs of society, the role of the private sector in education and balancing all of these with what would be commercial interests in private higher education institutions,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was high demand for medicine studies. “There is a high demand for spaces in medical schools for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB). DHET is working with the national Department of Health through the Joint Health Sciences Education Committee (JHSEC) to plan for the expansion of medical education, including the establishment of new faculties to offer the MBChB,” Nzimande said.

Nzimande said in the report that the long term solution was to increase capacity for the universities to produce doctors. He said this would require an expansion of the system “to enable the intake to double its current size” which would require investment in both infrastructure and staffing. “Most significantly, it also requires the expansion of the clinical training platforms to cope with the increased volumes,” he said.

“Medical schools are very expensive to establish and operate, and the accreditation processes are arduous. One of the biggest limiting factors that contribute to the expense of medical schools is the low staff to student ratio requirement of the Health Professionals Council of SA (HPCSA),” the minister is quoted in the report as saying.

Sunday Tribune report

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