South Africa’s tenth medical school will be opened at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, the university announced on Sunday.
The announcement was made on Saturday by NMMU vice chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz following the government's approval.
The decision was made on July 6 when the minister of higher education and training, Blade Nzimande requested NMMU to proceed with creating a new medical school by 2020 and to expand its existing portfolio of health sciences programmes in ten different health professional categories.
According to NMMU spokesperson, Debbie Derry, the university has been campaigning for years to establish the second medical school in the Eastern Province.
“The momentous decision comes after years of campaigning by the university for the creation of a second medical school in the Eastern Cape province, in addition to the existing one based at Walter Sisulu University [WSU] in Mthatha,” Derry said in a statement.
According to the university, South Africa is lagging behind many countries with regards to medical doctors per 1 000 population.
“In 2008, South Africa had 0.9 [medical professionals] per 1 000 population compared with Brazil at 1.9, Mexico 1.8, the UK 2.47 and Australia 2.3. The United Kingdom has 120 000 doctors for a population of 60 million; South Africa, with a population over 50 million, only has approximately 27 000 doctors.”
The Department of Higher Education provided R72.3 million over three years to NMMU, starting in 2014, to set up, among other things, new pre-medical programmes to allow for multi-entry-options towards the MBChB degree.
These students may then qualify for third-year MBChB enrolment in 2020, which is also the target year for intake of NMMU’s first year school-leavers for the same degree.
Starting with an initial total intake of 50, the numbers will grow incrementally to 200 undergraduate students, as well as starting to introduce medical specialist training programmes.