CAPE TOWN – Frustrated medical students are using social media, under the hashtag #UnemployedDoctors, to complain about their uncertain futures.
Nearly 300 final-year students have not been placed for internships next year.
Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi is backing them, placing the blame on three major provinces that have failed to fund the internships.
One of these students is Ryan Jacobs, who wants to become a neurosurgeon but instead finds himself in limbo.
He decided medicine was his calling after having surgery that stopped his epileptic seizures.
“My degree was a seven-year degree at Stellenbosch, so a lot of blood, sweat and tears, lots of late nights, lots and lots of tears. There were times when I thought it would never get to this point,” he said.
The Junior Doctors Association (Judasa) said the shortage of internships was a crisis.
“We are sitting with more than 600 (final-year) medical students and second-year interns who are not placed for next year. This means that our community in South Africa, which has one of the highest patient to doctor ratios, currently has a deficit of 600 junior doctors,” said Judasa secretary-general Michael van Niekerk.
Motsoaledi said provinces had a statutory obligation to fund posts.
“The provinces must create those jobs in those hospitals depending on the accreditation numbers by the Health Professions Council of South Africa because internship is still training.
“The provinces that have to carry huge numbers of interns are the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. If those provinces don’t budge then you experience a problem. I have been telling them that they have to fill those posts.”
Motsoaledi threatened to take legal action if these provinces did not act.
“If it means taking some province to court, which will be embarrassing, I will have to do so and say, ‘This province is refusing to meet its statutory obligations, what do I do?’ But I am hoping it won’t come to that.”
The Western Cape Health Department said it had allocated seven more posts but was awaiting further funds from Treasury.
eNCA is still waiting for comment from the other provincial departments of health.