Med­i­cal school in limbo

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

LE­SOTHO’S first ever School of Medicine (LSOM), es­tab­lished in 2014 to train doc­tors and al­le­vi­ate their dire short­age in the coun­try, faces col­lapse over an es­ca­lat­ing fund­ing cri­sis and a new rec­om­men­da­tion that it should not be of­fi­cially ac­cred­ited to pur­sue its man­date.

So bad is the sit­u­a­tion at the LSOM that the in­sti­tu­tion, which opened with an in­take of 40 doc­tors on 1 Septem­ber 2014, has now been stopped from en­rolling its se­cond in­take of first-year trainee doc­tors, who should have started learn­ing in Septem­ber 2015.

even though Health Min­is­ter dr Molotsi Monya­mane vowed this week that the govern­ment would do ev­ery­thing in its power to keep the school open, the Le­sotho Times has since es­tab­lished that a Qual­ity as­sur­ance Com­mit­tee of the Le­sotho Coun­cil of Higher education (CHE) has rec­om­mended that the LSOM should not be ac­cred­ited to train doc­tors be­cause it is ill-equipped to achieve that pur­pose.

If the CHE adopts its com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion, it means the LSOM can­not pro­ceed as a go­ing con­cern.

The LSOM, which is owned by the govern­ment, started op­er­at­ing at the Na­tional Health Train­ing Cen­tre in Maseru on 1 Septem­ber 2014 but was sad­dled with crip­pling prob­lems from the very on­set.

Th­ese in­cluded lack of fund­ing, teach­ing staff, and in­ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­ture and fa­cil­i­ties for train­ing doc­tors. The CHE qual­ity as­sur­ance com­mit­tee has now con­cluded that all th­ese se­vere short­com­ings se­ri­ously com­pro­mise train­ing stan­dards and rec­om­mended that the LSOM shouldn’t be ac­cred­ited.

The Le­sotho Times has since learnt that CHE has en­dorsed the com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion, leav­ing the col­lege’s fu­ture un­cer­tain.

The Le­sotho Times has also es­tab­lished that due to th­ese con­cerns, CHE stopped the col­lege from ad­mit­ting its se­cond batch of first-year stu­dents in Au­gust this year, a de­vel­op­ment con­firmed by the found­ing dean of the med­i­cal school, Dr ‘Musi Mokete.

dr Mokete has since made an im­pas­sioned plea for the govern­ment to raise the funds nec­es­sary to save the school and keep it open due to its strate­gic im­por­tance in the coun­try.

dr Mokete said in an in­ter­view that Le­sotho was in dire need of “a fully func­tional med­i­cal school” due to the health chal­lenges the coun­try faces, among them a high preva­lence of HIV, Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, and In­fant and Ma­ter­nal Mor­tal­ity. The need for govern­ment sup­port to the LSOM could thus not be overem­pha­sized.

“as a coun­try, our doc­tor-to-pa­tient ra­tion is 1:20 000 and this means if we were to have an epi­demic, many Ba­sotho would die.

“Th­ese health chal­lenges we are faced with are a cri­sis that the med­i­cal school would mit­i­gate if it gets the re­sources to dis­charge its man­date,” he said.

“How­ever, we were shocked to learn that CHE had or­dered us to stop tak­ing new stu­dents un­til they have ac­cred­ited the col­lege.”

dr Mokete stressed the need for the gov- ern­ment to make a fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to the school and also en­sure on­go­ing talks for a merger with the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) suc­ceed.

The merger, he said, would solve many of the chal­lenges the school is fac­ing such as lack of re­sources.

On his part, Health Min­is­ter d Monya­mane said govern­ment would not al­low the med­i­cal school to shut down.

“We can­not chase away stu­dents while ne­go­ti­a­tions for a merger with NUL are in progress. What stake­hold­ers should also be aware of is that the govern­ment, through the Min­istry of Health, has now bud­geted funds for the school. The money is ex­pected to come in the next fi­nan­cial year and that bud­get would go a long way to­wards en­sur­ing that the school does not have any more chal­lenges,” said Dr Monya­mane.

The min­is­ter em­pha­sised that the med­i­cal school was an ini­tia­tive of the govern­ment which would not be al­lowed to col­lapse.

“This ini­tia­tive should be linked to an in­sti- tu­tion of higher learn­ing as op­posed to fall­ing un­der the Min­istry of Health as is the case now, for it to con­form to higher learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions stan­dards.

“We came up with the med­i­cal school due to the dire need for health pro­fes­sion­als in this coun­try. The med­i­cal school is a pri­or­ity for us as we need di­verse skills in our hospi­tals.

“I need to men­tion that we al­ready have doc­tors who are do­ing a ster­ling job in dif­fer­ent hospi­tals but our gen­eral pop­u­la­tion needs Ba­sotho doc­tors who would eas­ily in­ter­act with pa­tients like our grand­moth­ers in our com­mu­ni­ties. This is why the med­i­cal school needs the as­sis­tance of the NUL,” said Dr Monya­mane.

“It is not in the best in­ter­est of the govern­ment for the school to be closed; we should be mind­ful that the med­i­cal school is about ac­cess to education and ac­cess to health­care. We need more doc­tors, so for us to get them, we need this school to func­tion prop­erly un­der the laws of this coun­try.

“We have been ad­vised by the Coun­cil of Higher education that the school needs to be func­tion­ing un­der an al­ready es­tab­lished in­sti­tu­tion to guar­an­tee that it con­forms to the laws that es­tab­lished CHE in 2004, hence the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the NUL.

“We want to see this med­i­cal school in­crease the num­ber of spe­cial­ist doc­tors in our hospi­tals so that we can re­duce the bur­den on Queen ‘Mamo­hato Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal. We want to see the school cur­ricu­lum in­clude cour­ses for com­mu­nity health ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers who would be pro­fes­sion­ally trained and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to com­mu­ni­ties.

“The govern­ment of Le­sotho is ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing the med­i­cal school as it needs to have its own in­sti­tu­tion that trains doc­tors.”

dr Monya­mane also said what­ever chal­lenges the col­lege might be fac­ing are “teething prob­lems” it would over­come with time.

Con­tacted for com­ment on the is­sue, CHE Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, ‘Makotelo Mot­seko said it would be un­eth­i­cal to re­lease the re­sults of the ac­cred­i­ta­tion be­fore the process has been fi­nalised with all stake­hold­ers

HEALTH min­is­ter Dr. ‘Molotsi Monya­mane

HEALTH Min­is­ter Dr ‘Molotsi Monya­mane

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