Friday, 19 July, 2024
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Foreign-trained doctor exams set after long delay

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has finally secured dates for the medical board examinations that will enable students trained abroad to write exams which will enable them to practise medicine in South Africa.

The council said a contract had been signed with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to manage the HPCSA medical board exams for the next three years, according to a News24 report.

Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University previously managed the medical board examinations, but its contract expired following several extensions.

Early this month, about 250 frustrated junior doctors trained in China, Italy, Mauritius, Russia and other countries marched to HPCSA's office in Pretoria to demand that the council provide them with a date for when they would sit for the board exams.

HPCSA spokesperson Christopher Tsatsawane said they started a supply chain management process for a replacement service provider in March 2022.

ROnly one bidder, UKZN, responded to the bid, but the university was rejected because it did not meet the requirements to accept students who studied overseas.

Another closed bid was then advertised in July 2022. Again, UKZN applied and was rejected.

A year later, there still was no successful bidder.

It was only after the council relaxed the rules that UKZN was considered for the project and appointed as a service provider.

Tsatsawane said a deviation from normal procurement processes was sought to allow negotiations with UKZN to provide guidance and ensure that requirements were met.

HPCSA registrar Magome Masike said the council regretted the delay in arranging the board medical examinations.

He said the theory exams would be held on 25 October at UKZN's Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.

The practical exams will be held between 5 and 8 December at the George Campbell Building at Howard College.

Masike said applicants who meet the requirements would be invited to sit for the examination soon.

The SA Medical Association Trade Union (Somatu) told The Witness it was relieved the impasse appeared to have finally been resolved.

“We have been in communication with the affected group of doctors and after speaking to the HPCSA registrar, have been assured that the MOU with UKZN would be signed this Friday,” said Dr Cedric Sihlangu, general-secretary of Samatu.

Sihlangu said the delays were not justifiable. “Without these exams, these doctors are being denied their rights to practise,” he said.

“This should never be allowed to happen again…if it does, we will not hesitate to approach the court. We cannot have a board that does not put systems in place to fulfil its duty.”

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) said foreign-trained doctors were as much of an asset as locally trained doctors.

“Doctors are required to provide quality healthcare … within the country and as a regulatory body, the HPCSA is responsible for protecting the nation and guiding the practice of healthcare professionals.

“It is important that any foreign-qualified doctor is adequately assessed and registered before practising,” said SAMA chairperson, Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa.

“These doctors are further required to go through internship and community service. The internship placements plan by the National Department of Health (NdoH) is budgeted for in advance.

“A specific number of funded positions are allocated for interns and community service, and certain criteria used for these placements. Often, the foreign qualified doctors are not budgeted for and there is a need for engagements with the NDoH to find solutions to this problem,” he added.

“The NDoH and HPCSA have developed a strategic short-term solution with long-term planning. They should have a system of records that indicate the number of South African citizens who are studying medicine and in which country.

“It also needs to be established whether or not those medical schools are reputable and recognised worldwide.”


The Witness article – Samatu pleased about MOU with UKZN (Open access)

News24 Cautiously optimistic: Junior doctors celebrate as HPCSA finally issues board exam dates

See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Expired contract stymies foreign-trained SA doctors’ jobs hope


HPCSA, DoH threatened with legal action over foreign-trained doctors' placement


More than 100 foreign-trained doctors take HPCSA to court over registration





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