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Junior doctors sitting at home as NC battles third wave

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Nine medical graduates who were promised placement at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital were advised that their internships would only begin in October as there was no funding available until then.

File picture: Pixabay

MEDICAL graduates who have not been placed in internships are intending to take legal action against the Department of Health.

The South African Medical Association had given a deadline of July 8 (yesterday) for all junior doctors to be placed as interns, failing which it would take the matter to court.

It was reported that upon their arrival in Kimberley, nine medical graduates who were promised placement at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital were advised that their internships would only begin in October as there was no funding available until then.

DA provincial spokesperson for health Dr Isak Fritz said that only 133 out of 288 community services doctors across the country were allocated placements by mid-year despite the Department of Health in the Northern Cape indicating that R26 million had been set aside for the absorption of Cuban doctors.

“Newly qualified doctors, including those whose studies were funded by the state and those enrolled on the Castro-Mandela programme, face an uncertain future. There is a dire shortage of doctors in hospitals at facilities across the Province, including at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital, Dr Harry Surtie Hospital and De Aar Hospital,” said Fritz.

He added that in the midst of a global pandemic, qualified health care workers were needed to fight Covid-19.

“Community service doctors, particularly those on the Cuban programme, dedicated up to nine years of their lives to study medicine on a government programme. After almost a decade they now have to sit idly at home as they cannot secure other employment until they have officially completed their practical training.”

Fritz proposed that the unplaced doctors be utilised to assist in the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out.

The spokesperson for the Office of the MEC for Health, Lebogang Majaha, explained that the medical internship programme was overseen by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

“They have accredited 80 medical interns for supervised training at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital. We can only increase this number if this is approved by the HPCSA through their training board,” said Majaha.

He added that 76 community service medical officers were allocated to the Province by the national department.

“We have indicated to the national department that we can accommodate an additional 30 to 40 community service doctors and we are in discussions with the national department to bring this about.”

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