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Govt fails to provide housemanship for junior doctors

by Sunday Express
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Pascalinah Kabi

NINE junior doctors are cooling their heels at home after the government failed to place them in different hospitals for a two-year housemanship.

The doctors are part of a group which graduated from the University of Zimbabwe late last year. They were expected to begin their housemanship in January this year but they are still out in the cold after the Ministry of Health said it had no openings at any of the local hospitals. This is despite the general shortage of doctors in the country’s hospitals which has caused the country to turn to foreign help to staff its hospitals.

As per a memorandum of understanding signed between Lesotho government and its regional counterparts, medical graduates are expected to undergo housemanship in their respective countries failing which the home country must issue release letters for them to seek practical experience elsewhere.

But the Lesotho government has failed to offer the junior doctors housemanship or give them the clearance letters to enable them to gain practical experience elsewhere.

In a recent interview with the Sunday Express, Lesotho Doctors Association Public Relations Officer Lerato Moeti said government’s failure to offer the junior doctors housemanship could affect the country’s health delivery system.

“We are experiencing a serious problem of placement of new graduates,” said Dr Moeti, adding more graduates would be forced to stay at home despite shortage of doctors in Lesotho.

He said the graduates were usually absorbed into the healthcare system by the 1st of March but the recent graduates who submitted their applications to the ministry in January were told that the earliest available openings would only be in October 2020.

“That leaves a lot not to be desired. Unlike in other professions, medical doctors are not allowed to practice anywhere after graduation without completing the two-year internship.”

He accused the Ministry of Health of refusing to give the junior doctors clearance letters to enable them to do their housemanship elsewhere.

He said it was sad that Basotho doctors who spent years studying to become doctors were being ill-treated by their own government.

He said only Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital, Mafeteng and the Leribe district hospitals were able to accommodate a limited number of junior doctors.

Health Minister Nkaku Kabi yesterday said he needed to consult on the issue as the nine junior doctors were needed to play a critical role in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19).

“I don’t have information on the matter. I will have to consult with relevant officers to establish what is really happening but I think they are needed now more than ever,” Mr Kabi said.

On his part, Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane said it had happened before that doctors cannot be absorbed into the health system in Lesotho. He said when this happened, the Health ministry requested permission for the release of the doctors.

“It is the responsibility of the Health ministry to release the doctors to work in South Africa but they have to inform my ministry so that we reach an agreement before they release them.

“It has happened before (that doctors cannot be absorbed into the health system in Lesotho) and I don’t think there is anything stopping us from releasing them to work elsewhere,” Dr Aumane said.

The Ministry of Health is also on record saying there have been vast improvements in the health delivery system owing to an increase in the numbers of Basotho doctors returning home upon completing their studies.

The ministry said Basotho doctors now constitute 25 percent of all medical practitioners working in the country’s 10 districts- up from just 10 percent in recent times.

The ministry has however, said the figures are still not good enough and urged more doctors to be patriotic and return home as soon as they complete their studies.

Dr Moeti said the ministry’s failure to take in the nine junior doctors was however, sending the wrong signals to the same professionals they are asking to be patriotic.




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