PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
SUBJECT FOR DISCUSSION (Mr N SINGH): THE PLIGHT OF FOREIGN QUALIFIED MEDICAL DOCTORS WHO FIND THEMSELVES INELIGIBLE TO SIT FOR THE HPCSA BOARD EXAMS BECAUSE OF SECTION 4 OF THE REGULATION IN THE HEALTH PROFESSIONS ACT (No. 56 of 1974), WHICH WAS PROMULGATED IN 2009 BUT IS ONLY BEING ENFORCED NOW
Remarks delivered by Mr Narend Singh, MP
It has been reported that South Africa which has a steadily increasing demand for medical services due to growing numbers of patients suffering from a variety of illnesses such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, psychiatric illness or who have been the victims of violent crime, are simply unable to receive immediate medical attention due to amongst other critical factors, the shortage of medical professionals at our public hospitals.
On the 27th February I delivered a Members Statement in this House expressing growing concerns and complaints by South African students who had completed their medical degrees abroad over an HPCSA enforcement in 2018 of a 2009 regulation, which until then had not been enforced and which now required our foreign qualified doctors to undertake internships in their country of study in order for them to be eligible to sit our South African medical board exams.
Correspondence from the HPCSA has been contradictory to say the least, with students receiving letters that first advised them of their eligibility to sit the board exam on 27 October 2017, which were then retracted on the 20th of February 2018. These students are now unable to sit the board exams in this coming May. This change of direction is totally unacceptable as the students will suffer grave prejudice. It is no wonder that court action against this ruling is in process of being instituted.
Chairperson, one cannot understand what informed this change in decision. I appreciate the fact that in discussion with the Honourable Minister Motsoaledi, he did indicate that he had engaged with HPCSA in this matter. What is now required is that the HPCSA through the intervention of the Minister must immediately take steps to rescind the resolution of February 2018 and immediately invite the Foreign Qualified Doctors who received confirmatory letters on or about the 27th October 2017 to sit for the May 2018 Medical Board Examination and urgently provide the necessary guidelines for same.
However having made this request for current Foreign qualified students it leaves the HPCSA and the Minister to also consider the plight of all SA students who are currently studying abroad, whose rights will also be prejudiced if they are as the regulation states, required to do internships in the country where they are currently studying.
They will be stymied and barred from registration as health practitioners if they are unable to secure foreign internships as required by regulation 4(e) of the 2009 regulations.
This begs the question as to the need for the 2009 regulation.
Taking a closer look at this regulation and what informed it one can deduce that – 4(e) makes senses if it applies to a foreign qualified medical doctor who is not a South African citizen and who wishes to practice medicine in this Country. This is a ‘best practice’ around the world, - of this there can be no argument.
I believe that these regulations had the intention of preventing non-South African citizens who applied to be registered as health practitioners to have completed their internships in their country of study, not South African citizens studying abroad.
One can argue that by not enforcing the 2009 regulation in almost 10 years now, the HPCSA created a legitimate expectation to students studying abroad that they would be in a position to register as interns without complying with section 4(e) of the 2009 regulations. How will students who are currently in the foreign academic pipeline secure internships abroad when they are on student and not work visas? Are they not now being unfairly prejudiced Hon Minister?
As a country we lauded the initiative taken by government to send students to Cuba. You yourself Honourable Minister have often waxed lyrical about how wonderful the programme is, - and you are correct!
Cuban trained South African medical students are brought back to SA in their 6th year and complete their final year of studies in accredited medical institutions. They then sit the board after they have been well prepared for the kind of medical practice they will experience domestically, and after passing the board exams receive internship at one our public hospitals. There is proper integration of these students to familiarise them with South African Health care conditions.
Surely this same system can be replicated for all South African foreign qualified medical doctors if necessary.
Depending on your response Hon Minister I will raise other issues in my concluding remarks.
I thank you.
Mr Narend Singh, MP
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