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Why doctors shun Lesotho

 

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

 

 

MASERU — Basotho studying medicine abroad are reluctant to return home because of the measly salaries doctors get at state healthcare institutions.

Junior doctors in Lesotho net M7 000 a month, a figure medical students say is a pittance.

In South Africa — where most Basotho study medicine — graduates and interns take home an average of M16 000 a month.

Lesotho does not have a medical school and every year the government sends 30 students to study medicine at South African universities.

But the majority of them do not come back home to take up work at government hospitals and clinics.

The Lesotho Medical Students Association (Lemsa) says, on average, only five graduates return to work here every year.

Lemsa is today set to hold a meeting to lobby the government to improve the salaries and working conditions for doctors.

“Most of us stay to work in South Africa where interns and practising doctors earn more in terms of salaries,” Mosoeu Mongangane, the president of Lemsa, told the Sunday Express on Friday.

“Lesotho graduate interns get around M7 000 while in South Africa they get about R16 000.

“The salaries doctors get here are demoralising especially to those of us who would love to come back and work for our country.”

Mongangane said the medical students were also not happy that Lesotho’s internship programme for graduates was found wanting.

He said, for example, there were no specialist supervisors for medical interns at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, the country’s only referral hospital.

Healthcare workers at the hospital always complain of meagre salaries and poor working conditions.

“There are no good working conditions at most of Lesotho’s hospitals,” Mongangane said.

“There is a huge lack of facilitation and supervision for internship students from various specialisations.

“There are not enough specialists to supervise learner doctors who are not able to learn anything on their own.

“They can even be a danger to patients when they are left alone without specialists.”

He accused the government of paying foreign medical practitioners more than what local doctors earn.

The Sunday Express could not independently verify Mongangane’s allegation.

“The government gives priority to foreign doctors. Their salaries are better than ours,” he said.

“This is one of the reasons why most of us do not come back to work here when we finish studying.”

Lesotho has over the years relied on foreign doctors from countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, China and Cuba to man government hospitals.

However, the foreign medical practitioners have been leaving Lesotho in droves for jobs in regional countries such as Namibia and Swaziland where they say salaries and working conditions are far better.

Basotho doctors and medical students also look for opportunities in South Africa and other regional countries instead of coming back home.

Mongangane said Lemsa members wanted Health Minister Mphu Ramatlapeng to address their concerns urgently.

The group has invited the minister to the Lemsa meeting today but it could not be established if she would attend.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Tumisang Mokoai said he did not know anything about Ramatlapeng attending the Lemsa meeting.

Mongangane said Ramatlapeng had since 2008 snubbed their meetings.

Lemsa has also invited Queen Elizabeth II Hospital medical superintendent Maama Mojela to attend today’s indaba.

“We have also invited Dr Mojela to the meeting,” Mongangane said.

“We have asked him to straighten out things for us to be able to start internships.”

“Right now the hospital is not in a good state,” he added. “There is a shortage of equipment as basic as oxygen.

“We cannot learn or help people in such a desperate situation.”

 

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