Foreign-trained doctors get the all clear to write exams
Relief and apprehension. That’s how Durban medical graduate Kapil Sevnaran feels about the Health Professions Council of South Africa's about-turn to allow foreign-trained medics to write their medical board exams.
The HPCSA reversed its decision last week‚ after insisting that graduates do internships in the country where they studied before writing their medical board exams in South Africa.
The doctors — many of whom have studied in Romania‚ Mauritius or China — argued that the regulation‚ first drafted in 2009 but only implemented now‚ would pose a “huge challenge” for them because of residency issues.
In a letter to those who applied to write the board exam‚ the council said the decision last month to implement the policy “is meant to address an incorrect interpretation of the regulations” concerning qualifications obtained outside South Africa.
Sevnaran and several others in the same position engaged legal team Pravda and Knowles to try to compel the health professions council to allow them to sit the board exam in May by lodging an appeal with the North Gauteng High Court.
His family had to fork out close to R1-million to send him to the Shandong Medical University in China because he could not get into a South African university‚ despite his A pass in matric.
Attorney Annie Tooray of Pravda and Knowles‚ who represented the doctors‚ said: “Our appeal had the desired effect and aggrieved applicants can write the medical board exams in May/June 2018.”
In a follow-up letter to about 200 aggrieved doctors‚ the HPCSA said: “Exams will be written in May/June and October/November‚ depending on when applications were received at HPCSA.”
It stated that the affected group would be split in two because the examination venue could only accommodate 120 candidates and it had received applications from close to 220 applicants.
“I feel a bit relieved that we have been provisionally accepted to write in October. “However it’s not all celebrations because it isn’t a confirmed seat.
“There’s still a backlog of rewrites so they may end up taking our places. So - at best - it will mean that it will be a year-and-a- half unemployed in total... there’s also a good chance that there may not be sufficient internship posts waiting for us after we pass.”
Sevnaran said the affected doctors still had trust issues with the HPCSA and many feared victimisation for challenging the organisation.
“I feel like we’ve won. But it’s the first of many victories that we need‚ to make it easier as returning junior doctors and by doing that we can inevitably have a healthcare system that is under less strain for these long periods‚” said Sevnaran.
A 2016 report by economic consulting firm Econex‚ commissioned by the Hospital Association of South Africa‚ showed that in 2013 the country had 25 state doctors and 92 private sector doctors per 100‚000 people.