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The imminent establishment of a university of health and allied sciences is to allow more students to enrol to study medicine and increase the number of practitioners available to staff hospitals and other health facilities.
The government is to open the university at the beginning of next year.
It is to incorporate Medunsa (Medical University of Southern Africa), which is being delinked from the University of Limpopo.
It was expected that about 7 000 students would be enrolled by 2019, with the number growing to 10 000 by 2024, the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, said on Tuesday.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said enrolment at Medunsa had shrunk drastically over the past five years.
The two ministers addressed the Medunsa community on the reasoning behind the termination of the 10-year-old merger and the establishment of an interim council tasked with laying the foundation for the new university.
Motsoaledi said the merger had not worked out.
“It caused a shrinkage of intake instead of expanding it.”
The effect on the medical profession had been bad, the minister of health said.
Nzimande is to gazette details of the new institution as well as its name and seat within two weeks.
He said about R1 billion would be injected into preparations during the first phase from this year to 2019.
“It is estimated that the total cost of all new buildings and extensions, alterations and renewals of existing buildings for the first five-year phase is likely to require a minimum initial capital injection of almost R1 billion,” Nzimande said.
The money would cover new buildings and other constructions, new off-campus housing for clinical training, extensions, alterations and the renewal of existing buildings.
The delinking of the two institutions follows a rocky few years, in which stakeholders noted the failure of incorporation, and Medunsa’s failure to transfer medical studies to Limpopo.
Unions protested and students complained about the merger, leading to Nzimande’s appointing a task team in 2011 of health and higher education officials, members of the medical fraternity and Health Professions Council of SA, and deans of medical faculties.
Medunsa and the University of the North in Mankweng, outside Polokwane, merged to form the University of Limpopo after higher education was reconfigured in 2005.
They were 300km apart, and at the time of the merger, Medunsa was running at a loss of up to R88 million a year.
The deficit was subsidised by the main campus in Limpopo.
The vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, and that of Cape Town counterpart, Max Price, found the demerger would cost more than R50m a year, and that the government would have to finance Medunsa to keep it afloat.
Nzimande said on Tuesday the aim was to make the new university academically and financially viable.
The new university’s clinical training platform would extend north and west of the Medunsa campus to include the Bojanala District of North West, and regions 1 and 2 of the Tshwane metropolitan area.
“If apartheid intended to build Medunsa far from Pretoria, this has the potential of developing a new city if properly planned,” Nzimande said.
Motsoaledi said the new university would close the gap left by there being only eight medical schools in the country.
“Once it opens it will expand the training platform.”
Members of the new Health and Allied Sciences University interim board are:
- Dr Olive Shisana, former director-general of the Health Department and now chief executive of the Human Sciences Research Council.
- Professor Alpheus Segone, a medical specialist on the University of Limpopo’s Medunsa campus.
- Paul Slack, a chartered accountant and registered tax practitioner.
- Sizeni Mchunu, clinical nurse practitioner at a number of health establishments, nurse educator, and lecturer.
- Dr Nothemba Simelela, who is co-ordinating the new SA National Strategic Plan on HIV-TB and STIs.