Department of Health failed to allocate medicine graduates  internships and community service

Medicine graduates nightmare: Department of health to open posts in mid-term  Photo: Tebadi Mmotla

Medicine graduates nightmare: Department of health to open posts in mid-term                                                                                                                                                          Photo: Tebadi Mmotla


Medicine graduates nationwide have been left despondent after the Department of Health failed to allocate them internships and community service.  This follows insufficient funding and too many choices for graduates, according to some insiders.

Countless graduates from 2016 who should have started their internships on January 1, 2017 are sitting at home waiting for the mid-term process to open so they can apply again to be allocated internships and community service.

The department allocates one-year community service and two-year internships each year to medicine graduates before they can practice professionally. The students have the opportunity to pick top five hospitals of their choice for an internship, according to Assistant Dean of Teaching and Learning Adjunct Professor Lionel Green-Thompson from the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences.

Joanne Cunniffe-Miller, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBCh) graduate from Wits is one of the students who was supposed to start her internship in January. “We were told to re-apply in March, then told to apply in April. We did, now we are told to wait until mid-term,” she said.

Cunniffe-Miller told Wits Vuvuzela that various people in the department told them that positions were available, however, the health department id have money to pay interns. “Nobody has given us answers on what we are supposed to do now. We are already delayed,” she said.

“We have been told that we have three years to do our internships. Legally, I am not allowed to practice or care for any patient. It is a huge problem right now, because I am unemployed and have financial problems,” said Cunniffe-Miller.

The 27-year-old added that she had been informed that the department of health was going to open more posts this week. “There is no guarantee that there will be enough posts for everybody, because funding is a nationwide issue,” she said.

Adjunct Professor Green-Thompson, however, said some of the problems emanate from students being too picky. He says the department must reduce the choice from five to three, and change from the popular urban choices to “unpopular” parts of the country.

“Looking at how much the government is spending on training medicine graduates, the students have the responsibility to accept what the government is offering. The issue is that students don’t want to take their fourth or fifth choice,” he said.

Cunniffe-Miller told Wits Vuvuzela that her first three choices were in KwaZulu Natal, the fourth in Johannesburg and Cape Town was fifth. After two rounds of not getting any offers, she got an offer in the third round, in Potchefstroom, but turned it down because, “I’m a married woman and live with my family in KwaZulu Natal.”

Green-Thompson added that the government had committed to give students jobs and that the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences was working with the national Department of Health to ensure that what happened this year would not happen again.

Wits Vuvuzela was unable to get a comment from the department of health by the time of going to print, after nine days of being told by Billy van Rensburg that the HR director for health, Victor Khanyile, was busy.

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