The number of student doctors eligible for internship in 2018 now exceeds the available pool of funded posts in the country.

This is according to the South African Medical Association (SAMA), who has expressed concern over the lack of funded posts for 2018 affecting more than 280 final year medical students.

“The problem does not lie with the overall number of Health Professionals Council of SA (HPCSA) accredited Intern posts in South Africa but rather about the lack of funded posts for all potential 2018 interns from the current pool of final year medical students,” said Chairperson of SAMA, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom.

“This year an exhaustive process led by the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa (JUDASA) in conjunction with the National Department of Health (NDoH) has been underway to ensure a fair and transparent process to place students in intern posts for the 2018 intake,” continued Dr Grootboom.

However, accounting for South African citizens only, more than 280 posts still require funding to absorb all eligible candidates for 2018 medical internship.

Given the distribution of HPCSA accredited posts, only three provinces – Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, have capacity to fund more posts. The remaining provinces are near saturation with respect to their number of available HPCSA accredited and now funded posts.

“For this reason, SAMA and JUDASA call on Premiers’ Makhura (Gauteng), Zille (Western Cape) and Mchunu (KwaZulu-Natal) to urgently instruct their provincial fiscus to allow for the funding of more medical intern posts to cover the shortfall,” said Dr Grootboom.

Dr Grootboom added that these provinces have the constitutional prerogative to disburse their provincial budgets in this manner. Invariably, additional funding may be required and thus the Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, and National Treasury are also called upon to allocate the requisite funding to avoid the impending crisis of qualified medical students sitting at home without employment.

“We must remind the Premiers, and the Finance Minister, that internship is not a ‘nice to have’ but a statutory obligation for a prospective doctor to fulfil in order to gain full registration as an independent practitioner. The government, both national and provincial, have an obligation to ensure that this statutory requirement is met,” concluded Dr Grootboom.

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