The programme, which will be phased in, is aimed at benefiting mainly SADC countries that do not have medical schools. These countries are Botswana,Lesotho, Mozambique, Mauritius and Namibia.

The decision was made after the health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and provincial health MECs met representatives of the faculties of medicine from the universities of Cape Town, Medical University of Southern Africa (Medunsa), Natal, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Witwatersrand.

The meeting also discussed issues relating to representivity, curriculum and foreign trained health professionals.

“The meeting noted that some progress has been made in improving recruitment of new students to reflect the demographics of South Africa,” said Sibani Mngadi, spokesperson for the health minister.

“While this process needs to be advanced, the institutions should also address the problem of high levels of student dropout especially in the early years of their studies,” Mngadi said. “The problem has led to the reduction of racial representivity on the final output from these institutions.”

Mngadi said it was agreed that efforts by individual institutions to improve representivity would be assessed separately to ensure that progress is made in all the institutions.

Statistics released by the department revealed the racial mix of admissions to medical schools.

Since 1994, the University of Cape Town has admitted 1 546 students. Of this, 467 were African, 233 Asian, 269 Coloured and 577 white.

Since 1999 the medical school has admitted more African students than White students.

In the Free State 689 of 914 students admitted since 1994 have been white while 136 were African.

At the University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch the vast majority of admissions were white. Pretoria has admitted 232 African students since 1994 while Stellenbosch has admitted 22 Africans, 109 Asians, 283 Coloureds and 1 015 whites.

The University of the Witwatersrand has also consistently admitted more white students than black students, according to health department statistics. Most medical students at this institution are Asian and white.

Medunsa has admitted 1 779 African students since 1994.

The Minmec meeting (between the health minister and MECs) also resolved that community service is to be introduced among seven health professions. These include radiographers, physiotherapists, speech and hearing therapists, occupational therapists, occupational therapists, environmental health officers, dieticians, clinical psychologists and professional nurses. –
Health-e News Service