EAC probe queries medical training in Ugandan varsities

Prof David Ngassapa (centre), the EAC joint medical council chairman and other officials inspect KIU - Kampala International University western Uganda campus premises recently. PHOTO BY ZADOCK AMANYISA.

Kampala- A technical investigation into the country’s seven medical training universities in the country has established that majority have inadequate infrastructure, academic staff and their medical students have limited access to patients for clinical training, which in turn undermines the quality of graduate doctors from those universities.
The investigations was carried out by the East African Community (EAC) Medical and Dental Practitioners Boards and Councils. The report has given the universities up to one year to correct the anomalies or else recognition of their graduates will be withdrawn.

While it was satisfied with Makerere University Medical School in providing adequate training and education for undergraduate doctors, the report singled out the dental training which has stagnated over the years with limited infrastructure and teaching personnel. The investigators observed that it is temporarily hosted at Allied Health Sciences and Management Institute.

The EAC Medical Councils now want the Dental department upgraded to a school with specialised academic units of oral and maxillofacial surgery, restorative dentistry, community dentistry and periodontology failure of which would make their graduates risk losing recognition in the region.

“The university must be ready for inspection within one year. Failure to comply with the recommendations will lead to non-recognition of dental school and graduates from Makerere University by the regional medical board and councils of EAC partner states,” the report reads in part.

Makerere University College of Health Sciences Principal, Prof Charles Ibingira, said in an interview that they have made progress in fulfilling the report’s recommendations.
He explained that the university has given them more space to house the Dental department and an additional Shs400m to put in place what is lacking. Four more teaching staff have since been recruited.

“They gave us one year to improve on facilities and staff. The university has allocated us more space and money. We are trying to ensure by November, 80 per cent issues raised will have been addressed,” Prof Ibingira told Sunday Monitor.
Whereas cleanliness is one of the top values of a medical officer and training institutions, the East African Medical Councils noted that the sanitation at Gulu University Medical School and the teaching hospital (Gulu hospital) was appalling.

“Though Gulu University is 12 years old, it has stagnated in infrastructure development, staff development and student enrolment.

“The general cleanliness of Gulu University and Gulu National Referral Hospital is wanting. It should be worked on as a matter of urgency.”

The report found that Kampala International University (KIU) had increased the intake of medical students to 500 annually, far above the capacity of available facilities and the number of teaching staff to handle students was not adequate.

They ordered KIU to immediately stop admission of new students to the medical school and find mechanisms to handle the already enrolled students within three months.

“The patient load and bed occupancy is too low for the students to be trained adequately. Recruit more academic staff to a level that is sufficient to deal with the current student load (clinical 1:7, pre-clinical 1:12,” the report noted.

Dr Mouhamad Mpezamihigo, the KIU vice chancellor, said a new report has since been prepared by the same inspection team lifting the ban on medical students recruitment after they signed a memorandum of understanding with Fort Portal, Hoima, Mubende, and Kiryandongo Regional Referral Hospitals and employed 20 more medical trainers.

“I appreciate that the Medical Councils are working together so that a medical doctor trained in a medical school in Uganda is accepted to work in Kenya, Rwanda or Burundi and beyond,” Dr Mpezamihigo said, adding: “I think government need to come to full support of private investors in facilitating those medical schools. Running a medical school is very expensive and universities do not start them to make money.”

On enrolment size, Dr Mpezamihigo said the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) doesn’t specify on the number of students a medical school can admit.

NCHE senior officer Cyrus Ssebugenyi said KIU had improved on the areas the investigation team cited in November when the inspection was first carried out.

He admitted that it was an oversight at the time they accredited KIU not to have indicated the maximum number of students the university could admit to the medical school.

Mr Ssebugenyi blamed Makerere University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology for underutilising government resources. He said Makerere and Mbarara universities are admitting much fewer students than they are able to enrol yet they are taking a lot of government resources and have partnerships with world’s best hospitals and also get a lot of grants.

“Makerere has the largest medical school and biggest number of medical staff. But they are busy in consultancy and giving less to the university,” Mr Ssebugenyi said. Makerere has the capacity to admit 500 medical students annually but KIU doesn’t.”

Busitema, Mbarara and St Augustine International University Medical School were commended for their steadfast focus on their strategic plan.

The inspection was chaired by Prof David Ngassapa, vice chairperson, Medical Council of Tanganyika and Prof Joel Okullo, chairman Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council was the rapporteur.