Health Minister must intervene in Walter Sisulu University degree scandal

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Madeleine Hicklin MP

The DA has written to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, to urgently engage with Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, to intervene in the debacle with the Walter Sisulu University failing to get their Master of Medicine (MMed) degree accredited with the Council on Higher Education (CHE) in time.

It is very concerning that Minister Nzimande, the CHE, and the Dean of Walter Sisulu University have apparently ignored letters from the South African Health Professionals Collaboration about the issue.

Furthermore, unless the situation is urgently solved, registrars will lose their years of training time, and might have to repeat it at great cost.

This issue was first raised in March 2022, after which the CHE issued a statement assuring registrars that their specialty disciplines were accredited. It now seems that the CHE were either mistaken or liberal with the truth. Neither of which will help the registrars unless CHE and the Walter Sisulu University pulls up their socks.

The South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA) has stated that the on-going delays in accrediting the MMed degree specialisations in anaesthesia, ear, nose and throat (ENT), internal medicine, and ophthalmology at Walter Sisulu University will have a profound effect on both the struggling registrars and the delivery of healthcare in the Eastern Cape.

According to Dr Caroline Corbett, SASA President, many public health posts will remain frozen until the accreditation process is complete, which exacerbates the strain on an already stretched public health system, resulting in longer waiting times for patients, decreased access to specialised care, and compromised patient outcomes, thus impacting the well-being of the South African public.

The DA has written to the CHE to determine which of the MMed programmes at each of the universities are in fact registered, while the DA also requests for urgent intervention from Minister Nzimande.

The ANC government’s callous failure of these registrars, without even an apparent attempt at intervention, is the truest reflection of how they feel about South Africans. The ANC government does not care to assist registrars in completing their specialist training, they do not care to assist students and interns with placement for their internships and community service years, and they do not care to improve the public health system. The National Health Insurance (NHI) will exacerbate the many problems with the country’s health care without solving a single one.

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