SA battling Covid-19 third wave, but junior doctors are still waiting to be placed

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A total of 288 qualified medical interns are awaiting placement for mandatory internship at public health facilities.
A total of 288 qualified medical interns are awaiting placement for mandatory internship at public health facilities.
PHOTO: Gallo Images
  • Medical interns are awaiting placement for mandatory internship at public health facilities.
  • Judasa vice-chairperson Tshepile Tlali says a lack of funding is an issue.
  • The health department's Victor Khanyile says they are finalising appointments.

A total of 288 qualified medical interns, who graduated in March and April, are awaiting placement for mandatory internship at public health facilities.

A medical intern, who agreed to speak to News24 on condition of anonymity, said they received a commitment from the health department in March that space would be made available by April.

"We heard nothing in April. Then they opened the cycle of allocation for mid-year students, but this application process was opened by May. But then, this month, they said it would be done by the 11th of this month. But, up to this date, we have no idea if we are placed or anything."

READ | Health dept faces legal action for 'failing' to place medical graduate

He said the department could place students anywhere.

He added:

And it's inconvenient because we get told so late, and we have to travel. It's extremely frustrating because we have gone to school for six years, and we have to undergo these processes to be independent and practice. We have been sitting at home for four to five months.

The timing of unplaced medical interns could not have come at a worse time for the country as it buckles under the pressure of a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

The vice-chairperson of the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa (Judasa), Dr Tshepile Tlali, told News24 a lack of funding is an issue.

"We are extremely saddened by the ongoing challenge that the health department has of placing interns and community service medical officers. We have been engaging with the department through the Internship and Community Service Placements (ICSP) group for many years now, looking for solutions to these challenges. It is clear that the issue is a lack of funding."

Tlali called on the Treasury and the higher officials in the health department to source funds to create more posts for the growing number of doctors coming out of university, especially now, amid a deadly pandemic.

ALSO READ | SA healthcare workers been experiencing burnout long before Covid-19 pandemic

Health department spokesperson, Popo Maja, on two occasions, failed to respond to queries by News24 by the time of publication.

The department's workforce management director, Victor Khanyile, on Sunday told eNCA that the 288 medical interns would be in the workforce by 1 July.

Khanyile said the department was finalising appointments and there would be a meeting on Tuesday with the provincial heads of departments to discuss the 213 unfunded posts.

Western Cape health department spokesperson, Mark van der Heever, said the province had 13 medical interns awaiting placement.

"We should receive an answer from national by latest Friday. We are basically waiting on national to allocate to us."

The manager of Youth and Career Development at Solidarity, Paul Maritz, said it was clear the state did not have the capacity or the ability to manage the placement of graduate medical personnel.

"Neither does the state realise the seriousness of the situation the country currently finds itself in amid the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our country is already suffering from a shortage of trained medical staff. How long does this have to continue before everything falls apart?"

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