Health Council Makes Unam Re-Admit Medical Doctors

Namibia’s first medical school at the University of Namibia is again marred in controversy over a shorter academic term for its medical students, with the health council refusing to register the fifth year medical students, as the country’s first locally educated medical interns.

The health council says the medical students still have a year of university studies, to make up for six years of medical studies prescribed by the Namibian Medical and Dental Profession Act, before being registered as medical interns. The University of Namibia (Unam) and the health council have been bickering on who is at fault for the past few days.

Earlier in the day yesterday, Unam insisted to New Era that it is the health council that approved in writing the five-year medical curriculum in 2010 knowing the Medical and Dental Professions Act demands a six-year medical curriculum. The health council, however, dismissed the statement saying it was Unam’s medical school that demanded leniency and a five-year curriculum, and has since 2013 pleaded ignorance to the council’s aice to change the curriculum to six years, in accordance with the laws of the country.

Out of the 45 students who registered with Unam’s School of Medicine when it opened its doors in 2009, only 35 passed the fifth year in 2014 and Unam wanted them to be the first batch to graduate as medical interns at the next congregation.

Unam sent an e-mail late yesterday saying it is “in the process of implementing, among others, the [health council’s] recommendation that the Bachelor of Medicine programme be extended over a six-year period”. However, Unam did add that “it has been the position of Unam that our pioneering medical students deserve special consideration given the fact that they underwent a two-year pre-medical training programme”.

The registrar and chief executive officer for the Health Professions Councils of Namibia (HPCNA), Cornelius Weyulu, was adamant when contacted for comment: “The prescribed period of full-time study at the University of Namibia is six years and the law must be complied with.”

HPCNA accuses Unam of misleading its students and of wanting a shortcut by offering a five-year university medical education that includes a sixth year of medical internship, as opposed to six years of university medical education with a seventh year of medical internship.

“In 2013, Unam asked the council to exempt students to study for five years and we told then parliament does not empower the Dental and Health Professions Council to change the Act. So, now they must solve their issues. It is their business,” Weyulu said.

Weyulu maintains the Act clearly says student internship is in the sixth year of medical education at a university and only after the successful completion of that period at university and graduation thereof, may a person be registered by the Medical and Dental Council of Namibia as a medical intern and has to undergo medical internship at an approved hospital for a minimum period of two years.

“There is, therefore, a clear distinction between student internship and medical internship and the two are regulated by different pieces of legislation,” says Weyulu.

Unam spokesperson, Johannes Haufiku, said Unam submitted an international academic standard curriculum that HPCNA approved in 2012.

“However, the design and implementation of programmes is not a simple and once-off process,” he said, adding: “Subsequent to the approval of our five-year [medical] programme, following an inspection visit, the HPCNA recommended, in retrospect, an additional year.

“We must emphasise that HPCNA found no fault with the medical degree curriculum and termed it solid to produce competent doctors. Unam would make a formal statement after all necessary consultations with affected stakeholders have been held,” Haufiku said.

Unam Medical School students have threatened legal action, and presented their demands to Unam this week, saying: “Unam must pay for the extra year, and reimburse us with fees they would have earned while on medical internship. We have already consulted our lawyers for legal action.”

Source : New Era