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Council issues guidelines on foreign trained medics

By Carol Natukunda

Added 20th June 2019 09:27 AM

A two-part oral and clinical exam, aimed at checking competency, are mandatory for doctors who study abroad.

Medics 703x422

A two-part oral and clinical exam, aimed at checking competency, are mandatory for doctors who study abroad.

Courtesy photo 
The Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council has rejected the proposal to have an orientation schedule for foreign-trained medical doctors before they sit pre-licensing exams.
The two-part oral and clinical exams, aimed at checking competency, are mandatory for doctors who study abroad but are seeking a license to practice medicine in Uganda. 
In a recent story published by Sunday Vision print edition, Dr. Katumba Ssentongo, the Council registrar revealed that although one is given up to four chances to redo the competency exam, the failure rate was still far too high. In the 2017/2018 financial year,  half of the 24 foreign-trained medics who presented themselves for the licensure examinations failed.
However, some of the medics who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were competent but were instead being failed by senior consultants during the examinations.
They requested the council to have a few months of local orientation to help them adapt to the Ugandan medical system.
However, in a May 27, 2019 letter addressed to the foreign-trained doctors, Dr. Ssentongo stated no formal orientation would be granted before the exams.
“However, candidates are free on their own to request for attachments from any hospitals,” the letter partly reads.
The council, has, however, issued guidelines to deal with purported bias by senior consultants as they assess the young medics. It committed to ensuring that the examination structure is revised and followed by all examiners at all centers.
“The graduates will no longer be asked names and where they trained. Only index numbers will be used,” the letter reads.
“The council has guided that photographic recording is not permitted..” it added in response to allegations by medics that consultants were laughing at candidates, taking pictures during the exams.
Regardless of whether or not they are Ugandan citizens, all medical graduates trained abroad must go through a rigorous assessment process before being granted a license to practice in Uganda. The process includes verification of transcripts from their respective medical schools,  a two-part licensing exam, and a peer review test for, especially specialists.
“The graduates we subject this are in two categories: the people who have studied in other countries, as well as Ugandans who got scholarships through the government to go abroad and train. These categories must go through this exam before proceeding to work in our hospitals,” said Ssentongo.
“We do two sets of exams: the first one is the written exam. When you pass it, then we allow you to go to the clinicals (praticals). We cannot allow you to go to the clinical part directly, because patients are involved and if you are quack, you can be a danger to the public. If you pass the theory, then you can have that confidence that we can attach you to somebody,” he added.
“When you pass the theory, we take you to the practical exam. One must pass each subject individually. If you pass, we still first give you an attachment at a hospital so you can know the conditions and drugs used. We realise that some universities have not been fair to our students. They do not allow them to touch their patients in their country. After the attachments, you then start an internship,” he explained. 
Dr. Ssentongo also decried stiff resistance from a section of parents whose children had failed the exam. 
“The people who train children abroad are mainly powerful families. Some say needless things. They think the exam is targeting them. Yet this is the standard practice world over,” he stressed.
The council is due to compile a report showing universities showing a pattern of universities which are not giving a fair deal to Ugandan students. Officials hope that this will enable parents and their children to make informed choices on where to study abroad.
Meanwhile, the East African Community is also pushing for the joint examination for all medical practitioners and dental surgeons in the region as a way to check on the quality of doctors. Ssentongo said the joint exam would also make the local university to take responsibility in quality training.
This follows a previous inspection of the medical schools in the region that showed glaring gaps including lack of supervisors and infrastructure. A report was presented to the forum of permanent secretaries at the EAC. A team is coming back next month for a follow-up inspection.
“Each country was told to consult. Uganda has been expeditious although it came with some legal implications. We have now enshrined it in the law which will be presented to Parliament. It will help standardize everybody and stop prejudices. That is the standard even in the US. You train and they give everyone an exam. This will make universities take responsibility,” disclosed Ssentongo
 “Some universities are happy when we test medical doctors trained abroad. However, if we used the same measure on our local graduates, they could fail. Even public universities could be exposed.  We have been having challenges during inspections. When you, for instance, ask for surgeons, they stage-manage them. This hide and seek will not help us.”
In Ghana and Namibia, recent reports show that foreign-trained doctors are also failing. A total of 157 out of 225 foreign-trained doctors failed the Ghana Medical and Dental Council examination this year, and cannot get a licence to practice in the West African country. The medical council in Namibia also said a number of foreign-trained doctors failed its examination, news agencies indicate. 

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