Once medical students reach their final year, they are required to fulfil a two-year internship and a year of community service in order to receive their license to practice unsupervised.
These students are either placed in major cities or rural areas.
Allegedly medical students are paying thousands of rands to swop hospital placement posts for their internship and community service years. Some even attempted to auction their posts to help pay off their student loans.
It was discovered that a group was created on Facebook called “Swapping Out: Medical Internship and Commserve in SA”, which had approximately 4 800 members. While another group on Telegram, called the Junior Executectors Association of South Africa (Judasa) 2021 Internship Cycle Group, has about 1 800 members.
During this week screenshots were posted on social media, showing medical interns offering to trade their allocations for cash.
One medical student posted on Telegram, on behalf of a friend who was willing to offer R100 000 for someone to take their spot in Bloemfontein in exchange for a place in Potchefstroom or Gauteng. However, since the screenshot was leaked the message was removed.
“First come first serve. Her parents are lawyers, and everything will be done above board and a formal contract will be set. The money will be transferred and reflect the same day. Cash can be arranged if you prefer,” read the message.
Another post read that someone was requesting R40 000 for their placement in Potchefstroom. The post read, “Any hospitals welcome as I’m using this initiative to help pay student loans. Bidding will remain private for protection.”
According to many other medical students, this practice has been around for more than six years.
When this practice was brought to light many professionals felt that this was not only unethical, but also unacceptable.
“We don’t support that and it needs to be investigated. We need to go in deeper, this is corruption,” said Dr Akhtar Hussain, Public Sector Chair of the South African Medical Association (Sama).
“If somebody wants to go to Gauteng, Pretoria to Cape Town, or one wants to go to Durban. These are mutual transfers to their places of choice. As far as money being involved, I have heard these kinds of rumours, but nobody has come forward and said, ‘I paid for this transfer’,” said Hussain.
Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Affairs at UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Kerrin Begg, said: “I can understand that students are still feeling extremely stressed, but surely we would not condone payment or any that for positions. It’s contrary to everything we would advocate.”
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé