Uganda Christian University (UCU), St Augustine International University and Busitema University have been ordered to stop admitting students for medicine and dentistry courses for lack of appropriate infrastructure.
They were also asked to distribute students already admitted on the programmes to other universities with the requisite infrastructure until they satisfy the minimum standards to teach the courses.
The orders were issued following a report by technical health experts from the East African Community (EAC) that inspected medical and dentistry schools of various universities in the region.
Regarding UCU, the report, which a source availed at the weekend, stated: “The school of medicine/faculty of medicine and university does not meet the minimum standards of medical/dental students. Therefore, upon qualification, their graduates shall not be eligible for reciprocal recognition within the EAC partner states as set out in the mutual recognition agreement and EAC inspection and recognition of medical and dental school guidelines.”
Inspection officials noted that UCU’s medical and dentistry school did not meet the minimum standards, adding that its graduates will be ineligible within the EAC states.
It was also established that the dentistry school lacked laboratory tools.
“The inspection team established that the school of dentistry... is a one-man (fulltime) department in the School of Medicine. The team also established that there was no single dental chair in the department,” the report stated.
The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) was directed to close the university until the loopholes are corrected.
“The university management in collaboration with NCHE is directed to stop further admissions in the School of Medicine until the above recommendations…are fully implemented, and a joint re-inspection by the EAC partner states to confirm compliance is carried out at the cost of the university,” the report reads in part.
The institution was also found to be under-staffed and heavily relies on part-time staff.
“The medical school is understaffed and relies more on part-time staff. It lacks departments, department heads and appropriate lecture rooms. The school had only seven academic staff available at the time of the visit,” the report stated.
“The university management in collaboration with the NCHE are directed to close the school of dentistry and ensure that proper requisite human resource, governance equipment and infrastructure are put in place in accordance with the NCHE and EAC guidelines,” it added.
As for the students already pursuing the said programmes, the university was “in collaboration with NCHE, [ordered to] ensure that the current students pursuing dentistry are distributed to other schools/courses appropriately.”
Attempts to get a comment from UCU were futile as the management was reportedly in a meeting by press time.
The inspectors also instructed Busitema University to close its medical school in Mbale District because it does not meet the minimum requirements for training of medical/dental students.
“Therefore, upon qualification their graduates shall not be eligible for reciprocal recognition within the EAC partner states as set out in the mutual recognition agreement and EAC Inspection and Recognition of medical and dental school guidelines,” the report said.
St Augustine International University was also ordered to close its medical school in Bunga, Kampala, for the same reasons.
Officials discovered that the institution’s laboratory did not have sinks, floor drainage system, fire safety precautions within or outside rooms and had low lighting levels, and dissection tables were made of wood.
“The university does not have its own teaching hospital and instead utilises several MoUs with various hospitals. The top management of the university and the medical school is not in touch with the issues in the medical school,” the report states.
The report recommended that “the medical school must recruit its own staff and stop depending entirely on the hospital.” The findings also indicated that the university’s science department had cadavers, prior to usage, stored in a pit (of approximately 2 by 2 by 4 metres of formalin.
Additionally, there was no documentation on acquisition, preparation storage and disposal of cadavers and no incinerator was observed by the inspections’ team.
At Makerere University, the inspection team said the institution had implemented up to 60 per cent of the recommendations after the previous inspection report.
“The joint inspection team having noted the progress made in the implementation of all the recommendations which was at 60 per cent agreed with the university…[it recommended that] the remaining 40 per cent of the implementation process shall be completed by May 2020,” the report stated.
While Makerere University’s medical school satisfied most of the requirements, its school of dentistry fell short on the standards.
The regional body asked the university to stop admitting new students for dentistry.
“The school of dentistry does not meet the minimum requirements for training of medical/dental students. Therefore, upon qualification their graduates shall not be eligible for reciprocal recognition within the EAC partner states as set out in the mutual recognition agreement and EAC inspection and recognition of medical recognition of medical and dental school guidelines,” report said.
“The university management shall explain in writing why they did not stop new admissions into the Dental School and redistribute students who had been admitted for the academic year 2019/2020,” it added.
At Gulu University, the laboratory was found to be having inadequate number of bones for demonstration, no extractor funs, no drainage system, no sinks for hand-washing for students and no documentation on receipt, processing and disposal of cadavers.
The report showed that Islamic University In Uganda (IUIU), Habib Medical School at Kibuli in Kampala lacked a research committee.
What authorities say
Dr Katumba Ssentongo, the Registrar of Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners, said such students, upon graduation, would have their licences cancelled if NCHE orders for it.
“When the reports are done we give them to NCHE because they are the final entity. So they are the ones who are going to give a final verdict upon that. At the moment, I cannot comment on the report. It is NCHE which can comment,” Dr Katumba said.
“In Uganda, education was given to the Ministry of Education, so other professional agencies do an advisory role, which includes writing a report. But to decide like closing a university, it is up to them because that is their mandate,” he added.
Efforts to reach NCHE for a comment were futile as calls to Prof Mary Okwakol, the executive director, went unanswered.
However, sources said the NCHE management had gone for a two-day retreat and the report findings were on the agenda.
“They are now in a retreat and those reports are going to be presented today and tomorrow,” the source added.
How inspection was carried out
The report tilted; “3rd Joint Inspection of New and Existing Medical and Dental schools” was conducted between February 10 and 14 by EAC Partner States National Medical and Dental Practitioners Regulatory Councils following the directive of the 19th Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health in Nairobi, Kenya, between October 28 and November 1 last year.
A total of eight schools in seven universities were inspected under Dr Ngambe Tharcisse, the chairperson of the inspection team, and was witnessed by representatives from the Uganda National Council for Higher Education (NCHE).
In Uganda, the inspection teams comprised two sub teams; A and B, headed by Mr Daniel Yumbya, the chief executive officer of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Council, and Prof David Ngassapa, the chairperson of Medical, Dental and Allied Health Professionals Council of Tangayika, respectively. Each team inspected four universities.
The inspection aimed at establishing the conformity of the universities to the standards and guidelines governing medical and dental schools in the East African Community. During inspection, focus was placed on areas of governance and management, monitoring and evaluation of programs as well as research and innovation.