Pretoria - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Thursday refuted claims that there were not enough posts for trainee doctors and pharmacists in the country.In some cases, those claiming they could not find work were being picky about where they wanted to work, he told reporters in Pretoria.The department had received 1499 applications from students who had completed medical school and wanted placement for their compulsory two-year training at a hospital.The department had formally placed 1476 of them. It had referred one back to the Health Professions Council of SA for a review.Twenty-two doctors had declined their application offers, he said. The state was obliged to place them in accredited internship positions.“Unfortunately, there is a problem in the country. An overwhelming number of newly-qualified doctors prefer to do internship in mostly four cities: Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. A few may opt for Port Elizabeth, East London and Kimberley,” he said.Reasons for declining placements included marriage, family responsibility, medical and legal conditions, religion, and owning expensive property.The department was not always able to accommodate these needs.There were still 45 positions in Bloemfontein and Mthatha. Motsoaledi urged the 22 to apply by January 25.If they failed to do so, the department would have no choice but to open these posts up to 89 foreign nationals who had studied in South Africa and were not obliged to return to their countries of origin to complete the training.147 posts available for public sectorOf the 89, the department only needed to place 74 after the Lesotho government asked that their graduates return home for training.Motsoaledi said two lists of unemployed doctors had been doing the rounds. One was compiled by the Junior Doctors Association of SA (Judasa) and the other by the National Healthcare Professions Association.According to Judasa’s list, 135 interns and community service doctors, and 126 newly-qualified medical officers who had completed internships and community service training, were unemployed.Motsoaledi said closer inspection of Judasa’s list had revealed that 13 doctors on it were duplicates, 12 were part of the 22 who declined placement, and nine did not apply as required.The rest were foreigners who had not yet been placed because South Africans had to get preference.Motsoaledi said government was not obliged to employ doctors who had completed their community service.After completing their community service, most doctors could either specialise, go into private practice, or do something else in the industry.For those who wanted to stay in the public sector, there were at least 147 posts available.“So the 135 doctors quoted in the media who are said to be without jobs may contact us because we don’t know them,” he said.He said 795 pharmacists had applied for community service. Of these, 716 were South Africans and all had been offered positions. Three declined. Seventy-nine were foreign nationals and there were 108 posts for community service available to them.The department recently created a new stream of employment for pharmacists at its centralised chronic medicine dispensing and distribution programme. It was set up in 2014 and was serving a million people.This allowed patients to collect their medication from private entities closer to their work or home and was intended to alleviate congestion at hospitals and clinics, he said.