The government has given a green light to universities and other educational institutions with final-year students undertaking health-related training to reopen and enable students to complete their studies.
All education institutions in the country were closed in March in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus disease. It is hoped that the reopening of education institutions for medical students will fill the human resource gap that the health sector is likely to face as COVID-19 numbers swell.
The group of finalists considered for the said programme include those undertaking training at the bachelor’s level in medicine and surgery, nursing, midwifery, dental surgery, pharmacy, and allied medical professionals. Also considered are finalist postgraduate students on health-related programmes, postgraduate students who are qualified and are already health practitioners, and those undertaking training at diploma level in different medical disciplines.
According to the letter written by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) executive secretary Prof Mary Okwakol, the government has addressed itself to the fact that it is likely to have a vacuum for medical and health interns if the internship schedule is not followed.
Over 1,155 medical interns are currently deployed in 35 hospitals across the country. But as their internship nears its end, there are fears of a likely vacuum since finalists who are supposed to replace them have been trapped by the lockdown which was instituted in March as one of the means to prevent the likely spread of COVID-19.
“…the president has approved the re-opening of institutions with final students undertaking health-related training. This is to enable the students to complete their studies to fill the human resource gap the health sector is likely to face,” the letter dated September 1, addressed to all vice-chancellors and principals reads in part.
According to the given roadmap, the institutions will take about two weeks effective September 1 preparing for the reopening. This will include the formation of COVID-19 committees, training of staff and installation of facilities.
The council will inspect the institution and issue them with a certificate of compliance before students eventually report to school on September 28. However, there will be other continuous monitoring of the institution.
In a recent interview with URN, Dr Richard Idro, the president of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) intimated that some course units will be conducted virtually before physical lectures begin. Starting in November, the students will have to sit for their respective examinations.
Besides medical finalists, the national COVID-19 task force was recently tasked by president Yoweri Museveni to discuss plans for reopening of schools starting with finalists and candidates. Available documents indicate that the ministry of education needs over Shs 1.67 billion to reopen for only candidate classes.
Sources indicate that the fate of the academic year will be determined before the end of this week.