Covid-19 fourth wave imminent, but 1 500 junior doctors still awaiting placements

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  • 1 500 final year medical students have yet to be placed for mandatory internships.
  • Judasa chairperson Tshepile Tlali has demanded transparency over the lack of underfunded posts.
  • The Department of Health said the students would be allocated either on or before Friday.  

1 500 junior doctors who applied to be placed for mandatory internship at public health facilities for next year are stuck in limbo.

This comes as the country gears up for another wave of Covid-19 infections. Some provinces are already seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases.

The Department of Health has indicated that a further R133 million needed to be confirmed to cover 664 community service doctors from 1 January next year.

Tshepile Tlali, chairperson of the Junior Doctors Association of SA (Judasa) said the impact of the uncertainty had left thousands frustrated.

“The Internship and Community Centre Placement (ISP) system established by the National Department of Health is a failure. Unfortunately, every year we have to deal with the same incompetency, same excuses and frankly poor results," he said.

Tlali added that there had been a lack of transparency about the lack of funded posts over the past few years.

"This has led to continuous late placements of applicants, with often numerous unplaced applicants," he stressed.

He added the issue had been a long time coming with no contingency plans in place to prevent it.

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"Nothing seems to change. We are aware financially and economically the country is struggling, but there are no plans to work around this. It leaves qualified practitioners who can not only help with the pandemic, but also alleviate the burden on the healthcare workers. Now we have thousands of students forced to stay at home," Tlali said.

According to Judasa, around 1 500 final year medical students countrywide had applied to be placed and had not received a response yet.

The department, however, said eligible community service doctors would be allocated to positions and their results would be published on or before Friday.

Department spokesperson, Foster Mohale, told News24:

The department wishes to put on record that, all eligible medical students have been allocated to posts for the 2022 annual cycle. Their results were released on Friday, 26 November 2021, to allow applicants to view their results and exchange amongst each other should they wish to.

He added that the department was engaging with National treasury on funding.

"The process of engaging National Treasury for additional funding is an ongoing process, since there are escalating demands in the public health sector which includes personnel budget that requires additional budgets. At least a healthy relationship has been built between both departments amid the bureaucratic process in line with regulations," said Mohale.

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Henru Krüger, head of the Medical Guild at Solidarity said state coffers were empty, while there had been an increase in the number of students trained as a result of the need for more healthcare practitioners.

"Solidarity is still of the opinion that the private sector should be given the opportunity to train healthcare practitioners, but then the funding should also be provided and the health professional," he said. 

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