Rural health scores from Wits partnership

2012-05-04 10:29

The relationship between the Wits University Centre for Rural Health and the North West department of health has started to bear fruits.

Eleven students who recently qualified as clinical medical practitioners at the University of Witwatersrand have been appointed by the provincial department as mid-level health workers in various rural hospitals.

They are the first group of students to have graduated under this partnership that started more than three years ago with an aim to address skills shortages particularly in rural areas.

Abigail Dreyer, Project Manager of the District Educational Campus at Lehurutshe where the students have been training, explained that clinical associates are not the same as doctors but have a very defined scope of practice and they are to work within the district hospitals under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner.

The group graduated in December but recently started work at different district hospitals across the province.

One of them is Tshegofatso Senwelo.

Said she: “I feel very proud and very enthusiastic about the programme and I feel very honoured that I am one of the pioneers.

“I’ve always wanted to do something for my community. So, here I am, I have come to the end of the programme and I’m going into the field.”

Senwelo is now working at the Lehurutshe / Zeerust Hospital Complex together with her former classmate Tsheyofatso Mpolokeng.

Although Senwelo’s class will help with reducing the workload on doctors that work in rural areas of the North West province, they will have little impact on the chronic shortage of health workers in the province.

It is estimated that 65.1 % of the population in the province lives in rural areas with access to about 11 public sector doctors per 100 000 patients compared to 30 public sector doctors in average urban province.

However, spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said the clinical associates programme and the South Africa Cuba Medical Programme, together with other interventions are projected to substantially reduce shortage of doctors and other health professionals in the long term.

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