The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) says that there is no moratorium on foreign-trained medical students undergoing their clinical training at local universities.
However, South Africa’s eight medical schools are experiencing capacity constraints and this could lead to some students, who studied abroad, not being able to secure a place for clinical training placement at these institutions .
The Committee of Medical Deans – a joint body of medical deans from the medical universities – highlighted the difficulty in admitting foreign trained students into their clinical training programmes until the issue of increasing the capacity to offer such programmes is dealt with systemically.
South Africa’s universities to enrol medical students is limited mainly by spaces available for the clinical training component of the programmes. In turn, this is constrained by training spaces within public hospitals.
Currently, medical schools are preparing to receive a large cohort of returning medical graduates from Cuba, as part of the agreement with the Cuban Government to train medical doctors. These students will return, starting from August next year and processes are being put in place to extend the clinical training platforms to accommodate this group.
While this is expected to put a major strain on the system, in the long run, it should enable the expansion of medical spaces within the university system.
The committee notes a sharp increase in the number of applications from returning foreign-trained medical graduates from countries such as China, Russia and Turkey who request to complete their clinical training programmes in South Africa.
These are privately funded students who have not completed their full training in these countries, yet want to be accommodated in South African institutions.
In the past, these small numbers of students could be accommodated by medical schools. However, these numbers have increased and is insufficient clinical training capacity at the medical schools to accommodate them.
The Medical Deans have, therefore, agreed to accept only those students who have been trained abroad through a formal South African Government agreement and where resources are available or are made available to accommodate such students.
The HPCSA – which moderates training and registration of all South African health professional students – has stringent criteria based on which it approves the number of students each university can place on the clinical training platform. This is to maintain high quality clinical training in this country
The Department advises privately funded students who have chosen to undertake medical related studies abroad, to complete their entire medical training programme – including their full session of clinical rotations – within that country.
On returning to South Africa, they should undertake the HPCSA admissions examination as foreign trained doctors in order to register as practitioners in South Africa, as required by the law.
Students, who wish to train abroad, should first check with the HPCSA for advice on their choice of foreign country in which to do their medical training. This will limit the risk of not being able to complete and register as doctors in South Africa.
The Department is working with the National Department of Health through the Joint Health Sciences Education Committee to plan for the expansion of medical education, including the expansion of the clinical training platform in preparation for the returning Cuban trained doctors, and the establishment of new faculties within the university system.