The Free State has emerged as not being a destination of choice for future doctors to practice despite opportunities in two hospitals in Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa. Opportunities are available at the Bloemfontein Complex and Mohumahadi Manapo Mopedi in Qwaqwa.The apparent unwillingness among future doctors to practice in Free State hospitals was revealed last Thursday (19/01) by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, during his address on the employment of doctors and pharmacists in the public service. He was briefing the media after consulting with the MECs of health of the nine provinces. Despite the country struggling to fill the shortage of medical practitioners, 22 intern doctors have turned down placement offers, reportedly due to reasons relating to urbanisation. Motsoaledi revealed there are still 45 positions of internship spread over three hospitals – Bloemfontein Complex and Mohumahadi Manapo Mopedi, as well as in the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. He said these positions were for doctors who have just graduated from medical schools around the country and are expected to do internship for two years as part of their training done under strict supervision. “An overwhelming number of newly qualified doctors prefer to do internship in mostly five cities: Cape Town, Durban in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg and Pretoria in Gauteng. A few may opt for Port Elizabeth, East London in the Eastern Cape and Kimberley in the Northern Cape,” he said.Of all the hospitals in the respective cities, interns do not prefer positions in the Free State to gain their experience. Joe Maila, spokesperson for Motsoaledi, said interns gave personal reasons for their decision. These reasons range from marriage, family responsibility, medical conditions and religion to owning expensive property in a particular geographic location.He explained that internship cannot be done in any hospital in the country. “For a hospital to take interns, it must first be accredited for a specific number of interns by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). The hospital may not take more than what it is accredited for. Internship training is statutory, hence the state is obliged to place them into these accredited internship positions.”He said 22 South African interns placed in jobs declined to accept them. Regarding the third category of doctors, post-community service medical officers, he said there were at least 147 posts still available.To address placement of doctors in internship positions, Motsoaledi said a system called the Internship Community Service Placement Programme (ICSP) was developed whereby interns apply centrally and are placed in various institutions of the National Department of Health.