Namibia: Health Council Asked to Address Irregularities

THE Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has requested the health council to set up an examination for foreign-trained medical graduates which is transparent, non-discriminatory and unbiased.

This comes after the Health Professions Council of Namibia (HPCNA) last week invited foreign-trained medical graduates including the 204 who failed the evaluation last year to write the pre-internship examination on 27 September.

Only two graduates passed the examination last year.

The government made it mandatory that Namibian medical graduates with international degrees should have their competencies evaluated against the standards of the health council.

PDM secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe yesterday welcomed the decision by the government to allow the graduates to rewrite. However, they requested the HPCNA to address the irregularities before September's examination.

In a statement issued by the party yesterday, Ngaringombe noted that there were some issues brought to the PDM office by foreign-trained doctors, such as the period of the examination, an increase in content with no increase in time given, the swapping of sections, and faulty numbering in the examination.

The secretary general added that the notification of the examination's total score from 100% to 300%, which was announced 16 days before the evaluation date, was a violation of the regulations under the Medical and Dental Council of Namibia.

"According to students and based on our research, the examination was not at the level of graduates (too difficult) and inappropriate, and the questions do not represent medical practice and the clinical situation in Namibia," he said.

Ngaringombe noted that the foreign graduates also pointed out the unfairness and discriminatory evaluation process between them and University of Namibia-trained medical doctors.

"For instance, the examination time allocated to them was shorter than that allocated to the Unam medical students," he said.

The secretary general stated that the scope and guideline for the examination was an exact copy-and-paste from the South African Health Professional Council's scope and guidelines, with only minor changes.

However, he also welcomed the government's decision to make provision for those who feel unprepared or fail, to rewrite next year.

The PDM believes that it is high time that the taxpayers start reaping the fruits of their hard-earned resources, as the current doctor-to-patient ratio is estimated to be below the international standard of 1:1 000.

"Therefore, allowing the foreign-trained doctors to do internships in our public hospitals will address doctors' shortages in future," he said, adding that although the government invested heavily in public healthcare since independence, the shortages of doctors and other healthcare experts remain.

The Namibian reported in March that PDM leader McHenry Venaani introduced a motion in the National Assembly to investigate issues surrounding the foreign-trained medical graduates whose qualifications could not be authenticated.

Venaani also wanted a parliamentary committee to investigate how foreign-trained medical graduates were awarded government loans without meeting the requirements, and for the committee to call all actors who are involved in the sector "to get to the bottom of the problem".

Higher education deputy minister Becky Ndjoze-Ojo said in the same month that some foreign-trained medical students were awarded loans in 2014 without verifying whether they met the minimum requirements, or the credibility of the institutions they intended to study at.

However, Swapo members of parliament blocked the motion.

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