Tuesday, 16 April, 2024
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Medical interns from African countries struggle after removal from SA critical skills list

Frustrated and fed-up foreign graduates who studied medicine in SA and now can’t get placed for internships after Home Affairs’ removal of doctors from the critical skills list say they were never told they would be prohibited from getting jobs in this country.

“I was on the frontline in an ICU during COVID, putting my life on the line for this country. I am trained to serve patients of this country – but now to find I cannot get placed and do what I am trained to do,” said one of several medical students from other African countries, who have studied medicine in SA and now can’t get placed for an internship.

They told TimesLIVE they have been blocked at every turn and are desperate after spent six years studying in this country.

Another student obtained a distinction and was told he could get a placement if he were willing to work for no money, as a lack of funding was behind the situation. He raised the money required but still was denied a post.

“This has taken a toll on our mental health. We were never told over the six years that they would no longer allow foreign nationals to be placed,” he said, “and there are gaps we are willing to fill.”

He had originally applied through the critical skills list, but in February doctors were removed from it.

While Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi included on the list, for example, multimedia specialists and investment managers, general practitioners had been removed.

Health Department spokesman Foster Mohale said the policy does not officially preclude foreign nationals from doing their medical internship in SA, but “allocation is prioritised for SA citizens and permanent residents”.

He added: “The purpose of medical internship is to evaluate an individual’s strength to practise as a medical doctor independently. It has nothing to do with criticism of foreign nationals.”

One of the doctors is a permanent resident, has lived in the country for more than a decade and has waited more than seven months to be placed. She graduated at the end of last year, and each year two cohorts of interns are placed – in January and July.

In January, the unplaced interns sent several emails and made calls: they were told posts were available but institutions had to wait for the “green light” from “higher up” to place foreign nationals.

The SA Medical Association (SAMA) told TimesLIVE it had litigated against the Health Department, and cited lack of funding as the main problem behind interns not being placed.

“Home Affairs needs to include medical skills on the critical skills list to allow more doctors to work in SA. All efforts to bolster healthcare should be implemented, whether interns or doctors are local or foreign,” the organisation said.


TimesLIVE article – ‘I put my life on the line for SA’: medical interns from African countries hit a brick wall (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


More investment in health workforce critical for future of SA – World Bank


Trainee doctors in Eastern Cape petition for jobs


DoH’s ‘reckless’ failure to place junior doctors aggravates medical emigration




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