Govt to introduce pre-entry exams for medical interns

Uganda Medical Association leaders address a press conference in Kampala on November 8, 2021. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

The exams will address the public concerns over the deteriorating quality of medical interns from training institutions.

The government through Ministry of Health is in the process of introducing standardised pre-entry internship exams to all medical interns before they are deployed to hospitals across the country. 

The exams are expected to address the public concerns over the deteriorating quality of medical interns from training institutions.

The Ministry of Health plan is contained in a new draft policy where proposals have been discussed and is soon being forwarded to Cabinet before it is taken to Parliament for consideration.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine, said the new policy is geared towards streamlining medical training and improving service delivery in the health sector.

“We are looking at it from the time the candidate is selected, admitted in institutions of training and how the training must be done. The requirements for the entry are going to be revised. We are also looking at numbers because now, we allowed so many students and when you have quantitative, normally you lose the qualitative,” Dr Atwine said.

She added: “So, we want to focus on the policies bringing back the quality of the product that we produce as a country but also specifically on training. We are also discussing on the exams, how they’re going to be structured on assessment of the quality of the trainees. All those are key areas that we are going to look at.”

Dr Atwine was presenting her key note address yesterday at the ongoing Joint Annual Scientific Health Conference 2023, taking place at Imperial Royal Hotel in Entebbe. The conference is under the theme, “Advancing health opportunities and innovation in the face of emerging and re-emerging global health challenges”.

She said all this is being done because the number of interns has increased and that they want to control quality.

“A medical trainee is not like an accountant or an engineer who is starting the machine. Medical training is targeted to take care of the human life. We must be very explicit on the quality of the trainees that are being sent out,” she said.

The Uganda Medical Association secretary general, Dr Herbert Luswata, however, challenged Dr Atwine on the quality of interns on the market, which he said is a total responsibility of the government.

“The ministry has the responsibility through the Uganda Medical and Practitioners Council to supervise the medical schools through the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda and the Nursing Council to ensure that they have all the requirements for training, including medical equipment and lecturers, among others, to have a good medical school,” he said.

Dr Atwine talked of weaknesses in supervision both at training time but also at practice time. She said they want to improve under the new draft proposals through standardisation. She added that this will be done through collaboration so that the numbers that are trained are budgeted for and well supported.

In June, the Health ministry said it needed Shs80.4 billion to facilitate the deployment of 1,901 medical interns, who were then still waiting to undertake the training and 4,000 pre-intern medical doctors who are about to finish studies.

Dr Luswata, however, welcomed the move by the government to have the internship policy in place but challenged the type of exams medical students will be exposed to.

“If they have decided to go ahead and work on the internship policy, that is a good thing because it is very necessary. However, the internship exams are not the best exams we need, especially those doing medical courses,” Dr Luswata said, adding: “The best way to regulate numbers should be having entry exams into medical schools and national exit exams when medical students are finishing school.”

“The reason being that the pre-entry exams into internship after someone has already graduated and is a doctor is catastrophic. When someone already graduated and subject him or her to a pre-internship exam, when they fail, they are bound to go and start practising without licences,” he said.

He said this will in the end compromise the quality of doctors in future.