Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Malawi and Shortage of Doctors

By Richard Chirombo
For Malawi to meet the growing demand for skilled healthcare personnel
in both public and private hospitals, the country has to graduate at
least 120 doctors each year. The country’s sole medical school intends
has plans to achieve this by 2015.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, on the sidelines of an Open Day
organized by the College of Medicine (CoM) in Blantyre, Dean of
Faculty, 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
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 Unima’s various programmes.
Students admitted to CoM pay only K25, 000 of the K1.6 million
required to train each doctor annually, with government footing the
remaining bill through a National Aids Commission Bursaries’
“Such 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
“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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