News | South Africa | Health
As the country grapples with the shortage of health workers in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, medical
doctors still to complete their internships and community service are languishing at home due to delays in Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) registration and intern placement.
Dr Nina Langenhoven, 29, who was supposed to start her one-year mandatory community service at Phumelela district hospital in Vrede, Free State, said it was frustrating that she was not allowed to help.
The 2018 University of Witwatersrand medical school graduate from Johannesburg completed her two-year internship at Tygerberg hospital in Cape Town last year and was excited to be ready to start saving lives.
Langenhoven reported for duty yesterday, but was told she could not be issued with a letter of appointment without a HPCSA registration number, leaving her in limbo and with her morale shattered.
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“It is frustrating. I live 500m from the hospital and I can start now, but I am not allowed to.
“The hospital did not have a community service doctor last year and relied on assistance. They need help and I am not allowed to help.
“It is a very frustrating situation. I cannot do what I am supposed to do,” Langehoven, said.
During their two-year internships, the hospitals in which interns are placed keep a log book that is filled in and signed
off at every four-month rotation between departments as part of mandatory training.
Langehoven said that on completion of the internship, the log book was signed off by the head of the hospital and submitted to the HPCSA with registration fees to get registration numbers for the doctors.
“Without the registration number, the hospital in which you are supposed to do your community service is unable to issue a letter of appointment.
“The applications were sent on 17 December. I have called and e-mailed the HPCSA but there has been no response,” she said.
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The last communication she received from the HPCSA was a text message acknowledging receipt of her application on
She added that the delay in getting her registration number and starting community service meant she was not getting paid.
“I obviously have financial commitments and will not be able to uphold [myself] because I am not getting paid for this month or days that I am not working.
“My community service will also take longer because I have to make up for the days I am not working,” Langehoven said.
This would in turn delay her in getting employment. Attempts to get comment from the department of health and the HPCSA were unsuccessful.
In November, The Citizen reported that more than 150 graduate doctors were in limbo due to alleged lack of funding for community service placement, scuppering access to public health care.
For several years, the health department has seemingly battled with placing graduate doctors in public facilities for
their mandatory community service which completes their training.
Public health experts said government’s drive to increase the intake of medical students, including the SA-Cuba doctor training programme, to improve access to health was not matched with adequate community service placement capacity.
Last year, the government brought in Cuban doctors and specialists, at an alleged R440 million price tag, to supplement local public healthcare workers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kalvin Maharaj, a student doctor representing a group of unemployed doctors in KwaZulu-Natal, said a decision had been taken to host an exam next week for 60 candidates.
He added that there were at least 250 candidates waiting for placement.
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