Monday, December 26, 2011

Malawi's Need for More Medical Personnel

Malawi should graduate at least 120 doctors annually to meet the growing shortage of skilled healthcare personnel in both public and private hospitals, a senior academician has observed.
Speaking in an interview Saturday, on the sidelines of an Open Day organized by the College of Medicine (CoM) in Blantyre, CoM’s Dean of Faculty, Dr. Mwapatsa Mipando, said the country currently graduates 90 doctors a year, a figure he described as being ‘on the lower side’ to meet current health challenges.
“For us to fully improve the health situation, we need to increase the number of doctors we train to, at least, 120. Fortunately, this is contained in CoM’s 2010 to 2020 Strategic Plan. Our plan is to achieve this by 2015,” said Mipando.
CoM, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), currently accommodates 90 doctors, 40 pharmacists, 40 medical laboratory science, 40 physiotherapy, and 50 health management students. Mipando said, however, that the target is to increase the number to 120 for doctors, and 50 for each of the allied health sciences.
The college’s plans come at a time when Unima has increased the number of students gaining access to its constituent colleges, a development that has led to an increase in the number of people sitting for University Entrance Examinations (UEE).
For example, out of the 7791 candidates who wrote UEE for the 2011/12 Academic Year, 6,615 passed, representing an 85 percent pass rate. However, only 2,379 (36 percent) of these have been selected to pursue studies in various programmes.
Compared to the 2009/10 Academic Year, however, this still represents an increase in the number of students selected to Unima colleges, Mipando observed.
However, Mipando has hailed government’s sponsorships for 90 students pursuing courses in medicine. Under the arrangement, students pay only K25, 000 of the K1.6 million required annually, with government footing the remaining bill through a National AIDS Commission Bursaries’ programme.
“These efforts have helped us produce over 400 doctors since CoM’s establishment in 1991. But we still need to introduce more disciplines because doctors do not work in isolation,” said Mipando.
Apart from training local personnel, Malawi is under Southern African Development Community (SADC) obligation to reserve 5 percent space at CoM for training medical personnel from other SADC member-states. This is part of a SADC Health protocol that aims at filling the gap of skilled health personnel in countries without doctors’ training institutions.
“Apart from people from SADC countries, we have also trained personnel from West Africa. Just last year, we graduated a doctor who came all the way from Ireland,” said Mipando.

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