Government has two weeks to either agree to absorb junior doctors coming out of universities or agree to scrap the third year of internship or risk being sued, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) has said.
By Phyllis Mbanje
The government has indicated it will not be able to absorb junior doctors who will finish their internship next month, raising major concerns within the health sector.
ZHDA, in a statement, said its membership was deeply concerned about the development, which would render around 75 new doctors jobless upon the completion of their housemanship, which lasts two years.
The medical practitioners’ group is demanding that the government completely remove the third year in which the doctors operate with a “Limited Certificate of Practice” and start issuing an open practicing certificate, which will allow the doctors to go into private practice.
“The unavailability of vacancies for doctors is an infringement of their constitutional right to practice a profession of their choice for which they attained the required qualification and completed the relevant internship,” ZHDA said in the statement.
The statement added that it was unlawful to continuously impose the third year in circumstances where the government was unable to absorb the doctors who would have completed their internship, thereby, preventing them from practicing their profession of choice.
“In light of the failure by government to provide vacancies for the doctors, who would have completed their internship, we (ZDHA), on behalf of our membership are petitioning government and other institutions and agencies to remove the third year in which a doctor operates with a limited practising certificate,” the statement reads.
Failure to consider their plight, the association has threatened legal action.
“Failure to take heed of this petition within 14 days of receipt by relevant offices, we shall not hesitate to take legal steps aimed at vindicating our members’ rights without further notice,” the group said.
Normally upon attaining the relevant professional qualification (in this case a degree in medicine), a doctor must go through a mandatory two-year internship. After completion of this, the doctor is given a Limited Certificate of Practice whose duration is one year.
During this period, the doctor is required to work at a government hospital before they qualify as a fully-fledged medical practitioner.
After three years of practice, a doctor is then issued with an Open Practicing Certificate allowing free practice.
However, the Ministry of Health has indicated that it is unable to secure vacancies for those who would have completed their mandatory two-year internship with effect from February 2017.
This is despite the fact that most district hospitals are operating on skeleton staff, with only one or two doctors.
Health minister David Parirenyatwa could not be reached for comment.