SA medical students who studied abroad will be allowed to take board exam in May

Cape Town – South African medical students who studied abroad will now be allowed to write the Health Professions Council of South Africa's (HPCSA) board exam, Deputy Minister of Health Mathume Phaahla announced on Tuesday.

Phaahla was speaking at a debate in the National Assembly. The debate was called for by IFP MP Narend Singh.

This, after the HPCSA decided this year to enforce a regulation drafted in 2009, which would force South Africans who studied medicine abroad to do their internship in the land where they studied, before they would be allowed to take the board exam in May.

Some prospective doctors had received letters saying that they would be allowed to take the exam in May, only for it to be rescinded in February.

A court battle loomed.

Phaahla agreed with Singh that the HPCSA's decision had serious implications.

He said that those students already approved for the board exam, will take it in May and the Department of Health will work with the HPCSA to find a long-term solution.

Singh thanked Phaahla for bringing a "round one victory".

The HPCSA's enforcement of the regulation was condemned across party lines. DA MP Patricia Kopane said it was "absurd and appalling".

EFF MP Leigh Mathys said it was "beyond comprehension why South Africa is making it difficult for South Africans who studied abroad".

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said a scarce skill was hampered by large-scale regulations and the HPCSA's powers should be looked at.

Many speakers in the debate also said that this highlighted that South Africa did not have enough doctors and that its universities did not produce enough medical professionals for the burgeoning need.

While there was broad agreement about the regulation, the DA and ANC still had a go at each other, with the DA complaining about the government sending South African medical students to Cuba, and the ANC (including NFP MP Munzoor Shaik-Emam), saying the DA doesn't support this initiative because it is the "poorest of the poor" who benefit from it.