‘Foreign’ doctors may sue to write SA exam

2018-03-09 13:37
Health professions council accused of prejudicing over 1 000 students.

Health professions council accused of prejudicing over 1 000 students. (file)

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South Africans studying medicine overseas have now turned to the courts in their desperate battle to be allowed to write the medical board exam, which would allow them to practise locally.

A Durban-based law firm has filed a notice of appeal in the Gauteng High Court to question the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) on this matter.

The Witness has published numerous reports on the plight of foreign-trained medical students who are also being barred from taking practicals at local hospitals, as they had done in the past.

In a February letter to applicants, attached to the notice, the HPCSA said it rejected all applications for exams to be taken from May onwards, and will reassess applications.

This was on the grounds that applicants were not “interpreting” HPCSA regulations related to medical qualifications gained internationally.

But since the regulations are nine years old, the notice of appeal said the HPCSA for years would have therefore “erred” in its own application of the law.

Annie Tooray, of Pravda and Knowles Attorneys, said the department was prejudicing students with this change.

“So for nine years the HPCSA was not enforcing it properly — they can’t now say they’re enforcing it.”

The appeal has one applicant, Kapil Sevnaran, but Tooray said they are looking at the possibility of launching a class action suit. “We had a meeting in Durban last week and many were interested in joining our suit.”

She said this problem could affect more than 1 000 students.

“We are tabulating numbers … and still receiving statements from them.”

The HPCSA told The Witness that students trained in Cuba would not be affected by the tighter regulations, and said there was no other way for a student to apply to write the board exam besides through the HPCSA.

It did not answer follow-up questions about why the HPCSA decided to enforce this at this particular time.

The Department of Higher Education and Training said it could not comment on the matter.

The South African Medical Association’s KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson, Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, said if the HPCSA blocked students from writing the board exam, it would be tantamount to “stepping on constitutional rights”.

“It would be a worrying decision. There are few universities in the country and those can’t accommodate everybody, and [the HPCSA] can’t stop them from pursuing their dreams overseas.”

Mzukwa said the problems faced by foreign-trained students were likely due to the lack of intergovernmental relationships.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  doctors

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