Plans to accommodate foreign-trained medical graduates

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President Jacob Zuma says government plans to expand medical education in South Africa to accommodate South African foreign-trained medical graduates who want to complete their training at home.

According to the Committee of Medical Deans, there has been a sharp increase in the number of applications by graduates studying in countries such as China, Russia and Turkey who request to complete their studies at home.

“Due to the limited resources and increased demand, the Deans of medical schools have agreed to prioritise the placement of students who have been trained abroad through a formal South African Government-to-Government agreement,” the President said.

He was responding to a written question posed by the DA’s Mergan Chetty in the National Council of Provinces on the challenges of students studying abroad.

“In the past, with small numbers of foreign-trained medical graduates returning, a number of medical schools could manage to support the graduates. However, with the increasing numbers, our medical schools are unable to accommodate all of the returning students.

“The long term solution is to increase the capacity of South African institutions to enrol medical students, which requires significant investments,” said President Zuma.

To combat the lack of capacity, the Department of Health is currently working with the National Department of Higher Education and Training, through the Joint Health Sciences Education Committee, to plan for the expansion of medical education in South Africa.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), which regulates training and registration of all South African health professional students, also has stringent criteria on which it approves the number of students each university can place on the clinical training platform.

Foreign-trained medical students are required to undertake the HPCSA admissions examination in order to register as practitioners in South Africa, which is a practice that is required by law.

In dealing with this challenge, the health sector has encouraged privately funded South African students who have been accepted to undertake medical related studies abroad, to complete their entire medical training programme, including their full session of clinical rotations within the country where they pursued their medical studies.

Medical students are also encouraged to first check with the HPCSA for advice on their choice of foreign country in which to do their medical training. This assists in limiting the risk of not being able to complete and register as a medical doctor in South Africa upon return.