Doctors in Zimbabwe train for seven years, including the two years of internship also known as housemanship, hence those calling themselves junior doctors are in fact, still students, the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (Zimche) has said.
In a circular dated January 11, addressed to the University of Zimbabwe, Midlands State University, National University of Science and Technology and the Great Zimbabwe University, Zimche chief executive officer Professor Exempt Dzvimbo said institutions must make this clear to current and prospective students.
“Universities that offer the MBChB programme are hereby advised to make it clear to current and prospective students that the duration of the medical degree is effectively seven years including the two years of internship training (housemanship),” said Prof Dzvimbo.
He said the council had noted with concern that the current representative body for student doctors had wrongly presented their challenges to the Health Services Board (HSB), which is comprised of staff all health workers.
Prof Dzvimbo said this was due to the incorrect perception that students serving their housemanship were junior doctors when, in fact, they were “graduate trainees” serving their internship under the supervision of parent universities and the professional regulator, the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (ZDPCZ).
“The correct position is that these are still students whose internship should be supported by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, which has the mandate to train manpower for the nation in terms of the Manpower Planning and Development Act (Chapter 28:02),” said Prof Dzvimbo.
“To this effect, therefore, there is need to clarify the fact that the duration of training a doctor is effectively seven years; and Zimche hereby implores universities to reflect this in their general and specific regulations forthwith.”
He said in line with Section 5 (1) of the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education Act, one of the objectives of Zimche is to promote and co-computer education provided by institutions of higher education and act as a regulator in the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examinations, academic qualifications and research in institutions of higher education.
Read together with Section 6 (d), Prof Dzvimbo said these provisions empower ZIMCHE to design and recommend an institutional quality assurance system for higher education, that is a system whereby courses, programs and degrees offered by institutions are evaluated on a regular and objective basis.
Government had been struggling to deal with the withdrawal of labour by graduate trainees who had made it traditional to down tools at least once every year. The recent industrial action saw them downing tools for 40 days demanding a review of their working conditions and remuneration.