When Dr Andrew Ross shared his idea of starting a scheme to train local youth to become the future health care providers at rural hospitals, people’s responses were: you will never find anyone from Ingwavuma who will get into university, and if you do, they will fail and drop-out; and if by some miracle you do find someone and they do complete their degree, they will never come back to a rural area after being exposed to city life.
Well I am happy to report that those people were wrong on all accounts. We are finding rural youth, who on their own merit, have obtained a place at University, and they are succeeding, since as reported in a previous Newsletter our 2010 pass rate was 89%, and the 2009 pass rate was 85%!
In this Newsletter, I would like to focus on the issue of whether the graduates do in fact go back. To date the scheme has produced 88 graduates, covering 14 different health science disciplines. If we look at the pie chart below, we are able to see where these graduates are currently.
It is clear that the majority of graduates (51 of 88) are working at rural hospitals. On graduating Doctors and Pharmacists are required to undertake compulsory internship training, which takes place at hospitals in urban centres, thus these graduates are not yet able to work at rural hospitals. They will honour their commitment after their internship training.
Significantly, of the 88 graduates, only 2 have left the public health sector for the private sector - and this was after they honoured their work back contracts by working at a rural hospital. Four graduates have bought themselves out, in order to pursue new opportunities or promotions not available within the district – this was done in discussion with us. Clearly, the pie chart shows thatgraduates are honouring their work back contracts.
All students and graduates are bound by legal work back contracts, so it would be interesting to see where the graduates are whose contracts with us have been fulfilled. Currently 35 graduates have no further obligation to us. As can be seen from the graph below, 80% of these graduates who no longer have a commitment to us, are still working in a rural health facility.
We can thus conclude that the investment in rural youth, to address the shortages of qualified health care staff at rural hospitals is an effective strategy (albeit long term).
Thus based on the above 3 facts: 1) rural youth are obtaining entrance into University to study health science degrees 2) they are succeeding at university 3) graduates are honouring their work back contracts, we are looking to scale up our programme in order to have a greater impact on the unacceptably high shortages of health care staff at rural hospitals – hence our support of 152 students this year and our intention of increasing the number of students we support annually.
In this regard, we have started working with two hospitals in the Eastern Cape to assist them to start the process of investing in local youth who eventually will become the health care workers they desperately need. These hospitals are St Patrick’s hospital in Bizana and Zithulele Hospital near Hole in the Wall.
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Until next time, keep well
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