Foreign qualified doctors at their HPCSA clinical
assessment exam.

About 138 Medical Doctors who qualified outside South Africa sat for the 2016 Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) Board Exam at UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine.

The exam is held twice a year and has two components, a written section and a practical component.

The HPCSA is a statutory body, established in terms of the Health Professions Act and is committed to protecting the public and guiding the professions.  It is also responsible for registration of all qualified medical and paramedical professionals in this country.

Examiner and convenor, retired Chief Specialist and Head of Department of Family Medicine, Honorary Associate Professor Cyril Naidoo, said the doctors wrote the exam in October. About 90% passed and were then invited to the clinical practice exam which comprised 17 stations, each lasting five and half minutes. ‘At the stations they have to examine patients, perform urine tests, interpret X-rays or answer questions by examiners,’ Naidoo explained.

He said the majority of the foreign doctors were from Nigeria, Romania, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Jamaica, Poland, Canada and the Caribbean Island. About 40% of the applicants were South Africans who had studied medicine outside the country.

Naidoo was impressed at how presentable doctors were at this exam. ‘I am impressed at how neat the candidates looked.  They were well dressed and had their name tags on. These candidates need to be complimented and commended on their attire and professional outlook.’

Dr Benedict Makopo of the DRC has been in South Africa for four years and aims to practice here. ‘South Africa offers a high standard in terms of science and medicine. It also meets the high standard of service delivery in rural areas which are difficult to access in my country.’

‘It is an opportunity to get residency,’ said a South African, who wanted to be named only as Dr Ashraf. He completed his medicine degree in Poland and came back to South Africa in 2013. ‘It is not easy to get a job if you are not trained in this country – everyone thinks you are not fully qualified. They always ask why you didn’t study in the country.’

HPCSA‘s observer Professor Luke Binu said he was pleased with the organisation and the co-ordination of the exam.

HPCSA’s Professor Gboyega Ogunbanjo said for doctors to qualify to work in the country they had to follow a process set by HPCSA and the National Department of Health (DoH).

Foreign trained doctors first have to apply to the DoH for an endorsement application process by the Medical Council and then they have to do the theoretical exam followed by the practical competence assessment. ‘The process can take up to a year, depending on the documents they have to hand in to comply with the requirements,’ said Ogunbanjo.

‘After they have passed they are allocated by the DoH to work as interns. Once they have completed their internship they need to work in the public service for five years after which they can apply to be independent practitioners.’ 

Nombuso Dlamini