Taking strides to fill the gaps in public health
Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, says the shortage of human resources cripples the effectiveness of the public health system in the country. Motsoaledi has challenged all faculties of health sciences to follow Wits University’s lead and take on 40 extra students in 2012. He says this will help address the country’s doctors’ shortage in the long term.
“Wits took 40 extra medical students than they usually do. Of course, it has costs. We will need a few more laboratory space, tutors here and there. And, Wits did ask for more money - 8 million rand. Now, 8 million rand per annum to train extra doctors is a good investment. Nobody can argue that”, says Motsoaledi.
Dean of the Faculty for Health Sciences at Wits, Professor Ahmed Wadee, explains Wits University’s approach to an increased production of doctors.
“Last year, we were admitting 160 students. We identified students with potential and offered them to join the medical curriculum - provided that they meet all our criteria. There has been 20 coming in for the first year level and another 20 in the second year level. That makes our 40. We have taken the initiative to increase the medical number and we have made a commitment to increasing our numbers in the therapeutic sides, nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy and dentistry. What we are saying is that there are 200 students now in our first year class”, he says.
But Professor Wadee admits that the strategy has huge challenges.
“Major implications on our infrastructure, staffing, time tabling changes… But we can overcome that. Funding is the huge problem. The other problem now is the residences”, he says.
However, he says the university will not be deterred from its crucial role of producing much-needed good quality doctors.
“We want to see ourselves producing health-care workers that are committed to social engagement… some kind of social responsibility. We want caring and compassionate human beings who would want to stay in their country and better things here. I would like to see our faculty become bigger so that we can provide more infrastructures so we can then respond to the needs of the country.
And we are clear that we will select the top students in our country. We’re not just walking around selecting people willy-nilly”.
He says Wits will also be focusing on rural health-care.
“We have committed to rural students and we will be selecting students from rural areas who have high potential, provide them with the support and give them the background and training necessary to go back to the rural areas because, for me, that is a challenge going into the future”, says Professor Wadee.
Motsoaledi has applauded Wits for this initiative, saying rural areas are often neglected.
“I am very excited. Training young people from rural areas is very important because that is where the biggest shortage is. Many people, after training, don’t want to go to rural areas. But it has been proven that people who are from rural areas do go back there. I am one of them. It is only that I was deployed to be Minister. But my work was in the rural areas. I’m very proud about that”, says Motsoaledi.
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