DoH should re-evaluate community service mandate as 5000 doctors remain unplaced 

Please find an attached soundbite by Haseena Ismail MP 

The DA calls on the Department of Health (DoH) to re-evaluate its community service mandate to provide an alternative to medical graduates who are not being placed due to the Department’s shortcomings.

At a time when our healthcare system is in dire need of capacity due to the Covid pandemic, recent reports highlight that over 5000 medical graduates have still not been placed in their community service posts, either due to a lack of funds or a lack of posts. It is incredulous that in light of the chronic challenges of long queues, lack of medical professionals as well as the pandemic, that there is “a lack of posts” to fill for graduate doctors.

It is a legal requirement for a variety of medical professions to do community service upon registering for the first time with their professional councils. To fully qualify and to be allowed to practice independently, a doctor in South Africa must complete one year of community service.

The placement cycle begins in January or July. We are now in December with 5000 junior doctors still left in the dark. In many cases doctors complete their studies in January and only get placed 6 months later.

The aim of community service is to improve access to quality healthcare to all South Africans, especially in previously under-served areas. The mandate is a noble one but the DoH must do everything in its power to:

  • Solve chronic problems in its placement system both technical and operational.
  • Make provisions for graduate doctors to get permission to practice, under the guidance of supervisors, in any facility until they can formally be placed for community service. And for those facilities to submit reports to the DoH on interns’ performance.
  • To address the post shortage, DoH must consider requesting that the HPCSA accredit more internship posts, for provinces to make more community service positions open.
  • In order to accommodate the additional posts, the DoH should request National Treasury to provide additional funding to cover these needs in the short term.

The DOH’s consistent failure to place graduate doctors over the years have stifled the career opportunities of many young doctors and their access to new job opportunities. The government must do everything in its power to get junior doctors into the field as we need them now more than ever.