Medical professionals have questioned a decision by the Health Professionals Council of Namibia to exempt doctors who undergo a remedial programme as medical interns, from writing the council examination.
A complaint by an anonymous source was sent to media houses this week citing concerns about the credibility of interns who are exempted from writing exams and severe consequences for the quality of healthcare services in the country, especially since the industry already suffers from a poor reputation.
The Medical and Dental Council of Namibia has cleared graduates for internship and exams are not required but no one has been registered as an intern pending placement.
“The HPCNA recently decided to register the medical graduates who completed the remedial programme as medical interns without writing the board exam. Why the sudden U-turn when they have always maintained that they would not register these graduates? Is government meddling in the operations of the HPCNA?” reads the complaint.
Registrar and CEO of HPCNA Cornelius Weyulu said medical graduates are exempted from writing exams because they successfully underwent a practical training programme for a minimum of eight months (maximum 12 months) under the tutorship and supervision of registered medical practitioners and or specialists in the hospitals approved by the council.
“The training is conducted as per the curriculum compiled with the assistance of the University of Namibia (Unam) and approved by the council. In addition, each candidate had to complete a logbook issued by the council in which they recorded the particulars of patients they have managed under the supervision and co-signed by their clinical mentors,” he told New Era.
Weyulu stated: “At the end of the eight-month period, each candidate was issued with a certificate of completion by the head of the hospital attesting to the fact that the candidate was ready for internship. Only graduates who demonstrated the required patient care competencies per domain were certified and those who did not pass had to remain behind.”
The council was satisfied with the practical training and evaluation the graduates underwent and found no justification in subjecting them to another evaluation before entering the two-year internship, he said.
“I must also point out that the evaluation is done at the discretion of the council and not a long time ago, medical graduates were allowed to register for internship in Namibia without passing the pre-internship evaluation. The same is true today for Unam medical graduates,” Weyulu said.
He added that the council’s examination has been theoretically based and did not sufficiently test and prepare medical graduates for internship.
“The practical training programme helps in evaluating the basic medical skills, knowledge and competencies within the clinical settings. The program did not only offer graduates an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in real life situations but also helps them to acclimatize to the Namibian health systems which may have been different from the environment under which they studied,” informed Weyulu.
On the quality of medical practice in the country, he said there is no compromise. “We believe that the eight months of practical training and evaluation has prepared the medical graduates much better for internship rather than the usual written theoretical evaluation.”
He said: “These graduates will undergo a compulsory two-year internship in the approved training hospitals under the supervision of registered medical practitioners and or specialists. It is our view that they are better prepared for internship after the practical training and the council will keep an eye on them during internship like all other interns.”