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Friday 23 August 2019
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Foreign-trained students’ mass failure adds to quality debate

The mass failure of foreign-trained medicine and dental graduates who sat for their mandatory Health Professions Council of Namibia Board examination in November last year has been met with controversy.
According to 2018 media reports, 238 foreign-trained doctors who sat for the examination failed.
Students however have said that 215 medical graduates and 30 dental graduates from the collective countries of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, China, Cuba and Algeria sat for the HPCNA board exam in November last year.
Only two medicine graduates and none of the dental graduates passed, which is mandatory competency assessment for all the foreign trained doctors.
The test has been dubbed by some of the foreign-trained doctors as “unfair.”
Interested parties have reacted with shock to the results and said that the shocking exam results should rather echo the calibre of training received by the candidate and the readiness to take up position by the candidate (which it does).
The Health Professions Councils of Namibia’s (HPCNA)deputy registrar and chief operations officer Crispin Mafwila last year reportedly denied any unfair treatment towards foreign-trained medical doctors.
Mafwila was quoted in the media saying the council is well within its rights under the Medical and Dental Act to “evaluate graduates to determine whether they possess adequate professional knowledge, skills and competencies in medicine before registering them as interns”.
He also said Unam graduates undergo a curriculum approved by the Medical and Dental Council, and are trained in the university and hospitals accredited by the same council as well as by medical practitioners and specialists registered with the council, and  therefore they do not require sitting for the exam.
Some of the foreign-trained students feel that the exam is aimed at assessing the competency of foreign trained medical and dental graduates and that HPCNA is in full right to carry out their mandate in assessing the students. They have also admitted that HPCNA is not at fault in making sure quality doctors are produced as there are a number of concerns around those who study abroad.
However, they feel that an image has been created that they are not as competent as the Namibian-trained doctors, one that they claim cannot be proven scientifically.
In contrast, The Patriot has learnt that there are challenges as far as the clinical supervision versus the academic supervision persist when it comes to the training that the foreign-trained doctors receive.
The sources also pointed out that it cannot be ignored that “there is a staggering proportion of medical graduates who studied abroad who in fact do not meet the minimum (35) required points to study medicine at Unam let alone in South Africa (42) or the rest of SADC.
If entrance criteria were not necessary, there would be no point of writing and most importantly – passing matric and they would not be used world over.
“The mere fact that student who fall under this category could enrol into a medical school in the first place, should raise alarms as to the credibility of institutions they studied at and what should be debated should be how they could study there in the first place and to a degree, how the HPCNA can and continues to overlook below local standard matriculation results when dealing with registrations. If we are to be fair, in order to be a doctor in Namibia, the said candidate must at the very least meet the minimum criteria of the in-house training facility,” the source further said.
The source also said that government should interrogate the bilateral agreements with government accepting scholarships and offering loans through the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund for Namibians to study in countries where the training criteria is not being met.
The source also further said that students asking for the exams to be done away with and just replaced with internship, is going against what the HPCNA is mandated to do.
“The HPCNA is within its full right to introduce and oversee any tool it sees fit in fulfilling its responsibilities and obligations. In fact, this manner of assessment tool is not unique to HPCNA and is used almost universally by all our SADC neighbours and the world over.
Those who wish to dispute this fact must do the necessary research and perhaps scrutinise how the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) handles foreign trained graduates; where no form of assessment occurs and mandatory remedial programmes exist for all foreign trained returning South African graduates without compromise,” the interested party wrote.
A doctor at the Windhoek Central Hospital who spoke to The Patriot on condition of anonymity said they have worked with a number of foreign-trained and locally-trained medicine graduates and apart from the exception of three or four, there is a big difference between the two groups.
The doctor said that there is a lack in the foreign-trained graduates and daily work with the graduates does expose the questionability around the training the foreign students receive.
“I think it all goes back to the low qualifying requirement of those accepted to go study over there,” the doctor said.




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