Russian and Chinese-trained medical doctors currently employed as interns at State hospitals have come under fire for poor performance as supervisors and locally trained interns complain about their lack of knowledge and understanding of medicine.
It is alleged that the trainee doctors lack sufficient hands-on experience to become proficient clinicians.
An experienced medical doctor, who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on condition of anonymity, said the young trainees are out of their element and appear to be largely unprepared to work as physicians.
“These interns do not even have basic knowledge that a medical student should have. It is surprising that they claim to have studied for six years,” the doctor complained.
The Windhoek Observer is in possession of a letter written by Unam Medical School interns complaining about what has been happening in the Ministry of Health and Social Services internship programme over the past 12-18 months.
In the letter, the locally-trained intern doctors blamed their foreign-trained counterparts for the increasing incidences of patient morbidity and mortality witnessed within the past 18 months.
According to the letter, a growing majority of these doctors end up removed from call rosters often within the first month of a rotation, as department heads identify them to be unfit to care for patients.
Effectively the doctors end up becoming ‘shadow doctors’, functioning at the level of medical students learning from their more competent colleagues yet continuing to receive the full salary compliment (including fixed overtime) for hours that they are no longer working.
‘Subpar doctors are exploiting their more competent colleagues. For every subpar intern taken off a call roster, their respective call allocations and subsequent workload has to then be distributed amongst the remaining competent interns.
“The doctors who have to pick up their slack do more normal and overtime hours yet are not justly compensated for the added workload.
“This is an injustice that should be addressed immediately. This is already producing a disgruntled workforce with poor interpersonal interactions. Continuation of such a system will breed a burnt out workforce with low morale.
“This ultimately leads to poor work performance and an increase in medical errors there by decreasing the quality of the health care services delivered as a whole and increased the likelihood of incidences of disruption of services,” the letter from the local medical interns reads.
The Windhoek Observer spoke to some of the students currently studying medicine in Russia about the nature of their studies and whether they were getting value for their money.
A fourth year Dentistry student from the First Medical State University, George Miguel, said as far as he was concerned, the students are receiving the best theoretical training available.
He said the only anomaly comes during practicals.
“It depends with individuals; if you come to Russia and do not take your school seriously then you will struggle when you go back home,” Miguel said.
He, however, mentioned that not all universities use English as a medium of teaching, as some use Russian.
Another student also studying in Russia, who refused to be named, said some of the allegations were true.
He said there are some sub-standard universities that are money-driven who are enrolling students without the correct qualifications just to make profits.
“These people do not care, they know that you will not be working on their people anyway so who cares,” the student said.
He said such universities recruit students through agents.
One of the agents mentioned is EduExcon Namibia, a company that is listed as education exchange consultants and advisors.
According to sources, EduExcon Namibia recruit students for universities such as Tambov, Astrakhan, Dagestan as well as Saratov Universities who are allegedly the major culprits for admitting students without the right credentials.
“There is an incident of a friend who was recruited through an agent to study at Tambov University, but was shocked when he came to Russia only to find out that they were being taught in Russian. The only subject being taught in English was medical ethics,” another source said.
In some instances, students will spend six years not attending classes, but will come home with degrees afterwards.
“Money can get you anything in this country. As long as you pay your fees, then you will get your certificate,” the source said.
The Windhoek Observer contacted one of the foreign trained local interns, Alpheus Iipinge to find out if the allegations were true, but he refused comment.
The Namibian reported last year that 54 Namibian medical graduates with international degrees were barred from practicing medicine in the country after failing a mandatory examination to test their competency.
Registrar of the Health Professions Councils of Namibia (HPCNA), Cornelius Weyulu, confirmed that of the 99 graduates who underwent the evaluation in September 2017, 45 were cleared for the health ministry’s 2018 medical internship programme.
This week, Weyulu did not respond to questions sent him by the time of going to print. Ministry of Health and Social Services Acting Permanent Secretary, Petronella Masabane, said she was not aware of the allegations.
She, however, said foreign-trained medical graduates who do not pass the evaluation of the Health Professions Council have to undergo a remedial programme before beginning their medical internships.
“Concerns about the capabilities of interns should be raised with the senior doctors, specialists and medical superintendents under whose supervision the interns are trained,” Masabane said.
In 2014, New Era reported that some Namibian students had been enrolled to study medicine in China despite attaining less than 10 points in their grade 12 examinations. This figure is far below the minimum 35 entry point level for most medical schools.
Some of the students who enrolled for medicine attained symbols as low as G, which translates into two points and E, which translates into three points, New Era reported.
For a candidate to be admitted at the School of Medicine, he or she must be in possession of a Grade 12 Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate (NSSC) with at least 35 points from 5 subjects.
Local health experts have in the past called for foreign trained doctors to be re-trained, saying that most have excellent theoretical knowledge of medicine, but lack fundamental grasp of the diseases that they encounter at the ward or clinic.RCC milks govt dry