Post-internship exams for young doctors in Tanzania put on plan

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[Dar es Salaam] For the first time in Tanzania, graduates of medicine and dentistry who are being posted for a one year internship programme at various hospitals across the country, will have to sit for post-internship examinations before qualifying for full registration.

The development comes two years since the enactment of the Medical, Dental and Allied Health Professionals Act No. 11, 2017 which spells out new criteria for registration of all medical doctors and dentists in Tanzania. The new Act repealed the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Cap 152), 1959, which was found to be outdated.

The Registrar of the Medical Council of Tanganyika (MCT) Dr David Mzava told MedicoPRESS that the exams are a fulfilment of registration requirements in accordance with the new Act. This is also part of the ongoing reforms in the country’s health professionals’ regulatory frameworks.

“We will effectively start implementing part of the Act by conducting post- internship examinations for this batch of interns who have been posted this year,’’ said Dr Mzava, signalling a fresh start in the implementation of the new law.

He said the examinations, to be administered by the council, will give room for doctors who have completed their internship programmes to further meet the criteria for licensing and renewal after undergoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Doctors who don’t intend to practice will be able to retain their names in the register, according to the new law. “… [they] shall retain their names in the register, roll or list as the case may be, through annual renewal,’’ reads Section 60 (1) of the Act.

In the coming years, when the new registration system finally takes shape, a practitioner who intends to renew his or her practising licence, shall have to prove that he/she has undergone CPD.

In Tanzania’s health sector, CPD, which involves enhancing knowledge, skills and work experience after formal training, is guided by the National CPD Framework of 2016 for healthcare workers under the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children.

No more temporary registration

A notice released October 31 by office of the registrar shows that an intern doctor who completes a one year programme under provisional registration will no longer, thereafter,  be required to undergo a two-year temporary registration which was provided for under the repealed law.

In the due course, the MCT is expected to issue details of how the post-internship examinations will be conducted, where they will take place and the grading systems. During the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) in Dodoma on November 11 and 12, the MCT Registrar is expected to speak to doctors in details about the new Act.

Tighten controls

MAT said the commencement of post-internship exams marks the beginning for implementation of recommendations made by health professionals’ associations during a process to form the Medical, Dental and Allied Health Professionals Act No. 11, 2017.

The President of MAT, Dr Elisha Osati, told MedicoPRESS that the exams are expected to boost the quality of intern doctors.

“Over the years, concerns have been raised about the declining quality of intern doctors from various intern centres. That’s’ why stakeholders had to include examinations as part of the new Act,” he said.

“There was a good number of intern doctors who were found not to take this programme seriously, yet they all wanted to be registered to practice. Professional bodies, in consultation with all stakeholders agreed that this was indeed a problem and the way to fix it was to tighten controls in the way they are assessed after the one year of internship,” added Dr Osati.

In its October notice, the medical council said it was not ready to provide pre-internship exams. MedicoPRESS is informed that pre-internship exams fall under another arrangement.

“The pre-internship exams, which in fact means the exit exams from universities, this will be taken care of by other stakeholders,” said Dr Osati during an interview on Sunday.

Medical universities in the country are currently working on a benchmark curriculum that will set minimum requirements for graduates, especially those taking medicine and nursing. It is expected to be scaled up among other health cadres.

This, according to stakeholders, is projected to streamline how fresh graduates in the health field are examined before being posted to work stations. Under a 5-year project, dubbed, “Transforming Health Professionals Education in Tanzania (THET), a harmonised curriculum will be introduced to determine graduates’ competencies.

“Each medical university is now using its own training curriculum. That’s why they produce graduates of different competencies,” said Dr Doreen Mloka, the Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas), during the launching of THET in Dar es Salaam early this year.

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