Fifth year Wits medical students have learnt some harsh lessons about the conditions at public hospitals this year, after doing their practicals at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.
“The shortage of resources and supplies is a real concern for me,” said Massillon Phasha. Doctors had to improvise and work with whatever was available, she said, because they did not have the necessary equipment and medicine. This meant patients did not get the best treatment possible.
“The lab tests one can request are limited and results for specimens sent for pathology assessment take a long time to get back. All these factors largely influence the management of the patients.
“I have voiced my concerns to the doctors, but unfortunately there is not much that they can do about it because this is largely due to shortage of funds. So unless we can get the government to give the hospitals more money, there is almost nothing we can do,” said Pasha.
Keabetsoe Phello said she had never voiced her concerns as she was too scared.
Medical students go to the academic hospital as part of their fifth year studies, but do not manage patients.
“We help where we can under supervision from a doctor, but our duty in the hospital is to learn,” said Pasha.
On a typical day the students do everything from being tutored by doctors on specific subjects to running basic diagnostic tests, and they could even assist in delivering a baby, depending what rounds they are doing that day.
Despite the poor conditions, students appreciate the learning experience. Pasha said she was grateful to be at Charlotte Maxeke because she was able to learn a lot. She said she believed the doctors were doing their best despite the difficult working conditions.
Phello said she loved being part of a team and getting a “sneak peak as to what life after med school entails”.
All hospitals had problems when it came to resources and facilities, she said. But despite these, and the fact that medical students work hard, with no pay, she still loved her job.
“I could never imagine myself doing anything else. In some cases we do almost the same amount of work as the interns, yet we do not get paid. And some other medical disciplines, pharmacy and nurses to name a few, get paid a wage for working.”
The students will be stationed at the hospital until November 2014.