Placement moratorium on students trained in India and China

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Medical students who studied in India and China have been dealt a major blow after a moratorium was placed on SA’s local universities, preventing them from being placed at state hospitals because of concerns over their qualifications.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) apparently put this moratorium in place because they believed the students were not properly qualified. However, according to a Daily News report, when questioned, the department denied issuing the moratorium, saying it was a Department of Health initiative. But the Health Department said it supported the DHET’s moratorium.

The report says after four years of studies, students return to South Africa, where they are placed in local hospitals to complete a four-month practical course. A few parents of South African students studying abroad said they were issued a letter by the DHET stating that: students who return have insufficient practice experience; universities have to hire more staff to train them; there was insufficient funding to support the additional staff and learning tools; and most of the students failed the board exam set by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

The DHET confirmed sending the letters.

The report says the news has come as a shock to many parents, some of whom have spent a fortune for their children to study abroad. Their children did not get placed in local medical schools, despite doing well in matric. One mother said she hoped that by the time her son was expected to complete his course, government would have been prepared to assist. The woman, who declined to be named, said her son was expected to return to South Africa next year to complete his course. “The moratorium should have been made known before students went overseas to obtain their medical qualifications,” she said.

According to the report, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, the South African Medical Association chair, said this was an ongoing problem. “Most of these universities are not recognised and when these students have to write a special exam, less than 10% of them pass. There needs to be some mechanism that helps them pass this exam. It is a common concern that there is a shortage of doctors in South Africa, but there are too few medical schools for the needs of the country. We need to lobby for there to be more medical schools that are accessible to everyone and not just the rich,” said Grootboom.

Popo Maja, national health spokesperson, said the department supported the move by the DHET. “The standards set by the Department of Higher Education and Training on the training of these professionals is done in consultation with the Department of Health. Poor training will lead to poor quality of care. That is the main concern we have here,” he said.

Daily News report

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