Final year medical students have mobilised on Facebook, highlighting their fears that they will not get internships at state hospitals come January.
Durban - KwaZulu-Natal is among the three provinces which have not filled all their allocated medical intern posts, driving anxious final year students to campaign on social media.

On the Junior Doctors South Africa (Judasa) Facebook page, secretary general Michael Van Niekerk writes that the campaign is to raise awareness on the possibility of unemployed doctors, if the applicants are not allocated in time to take up posts on January 1.

Judasa falls under the South African Medical Association (Sama), whose chairman, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, said this would affect 280 final year medical students. 

He said the number of student doctors eligible for internship in 2018 now exceeds the available pool of funded posts in the country.

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, however, said there were more than enough posts, it was the provinces that were not releasing the funds to fill them. 

“The placement of medical interns is the statutory responsibility of the state. People who study medicine have to do an internship and it is only the state that can offer internship. If they don’t get internship, their career has reached a cul de sac,” said Motsoaledi. 

A statement from the KZN Department of Health read: “Allocation of interns is handled by the National Department of Health on behalf of provinces. There has been additional interns where the National Department has requested provinces to take these additional ones too. KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has agreed to absorb the additional allocation."

But Motsoaledi said placement has always been the responsibility of provincial departments once the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) had accredited each hospital to take on a specific number of interns. It is then the job of the provincial departments to create the posts, and make funds available. 

The national department, said Motsoaledi, was merely a central coordinating point.

Sama and Judasa feared a “crisis” was looming. 

“For this reason, Sama and Judasa call on Premiers (David) Makhura- Gauteng, (Helen) Zille- Western Cape  and (Willies) Mchunu- KwaZulu-Natal, to urgently instruct their provincial fiscus to allow for the funding of more medical intern posts to cover the shortfall.

“...The Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, and National Treasury, are also called upon to allocate the requisite funding to avoid the impending crisis,” said Grootboom. 

Taking part in Judasa’s campaign, 6th year medical student, Michael Cloete wrote, “I’m tired. Emotionally, physically and mentally tired. The worst part is, I haven’t even started working yet. 

"I complete my medical undergraduate degree in December 2017...still have no offers of employment.”

The Mercury