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Parliament’s portfolio committee on health yesterday sent the deans of South Africa’s medical schools home with an “F”.

Medical schools’ race bar

All the deans of South Africa’s major faculties of health sciences, under the umbrella body of the Committee of Deans, were to appear before the committee for a briefing on the curriculum and criteria used to admit students.

Only five of the eight deans of medical schools turned up.

Khaya Mfenyana, chairman of Committee of Deans and executive dean of the faculty of health sciences at Walter Sisulu University, apologised on behalf of the deans from Wits, University of the Free State and Pretoria University.

Mfenyana said: “The [absent deans] responded very early [saying] they would be overseas, so to us there were genuine reasons.”

Committee chairman Monwabisi Goqwana said the deans were called to discuss the shortage of doctors in the country.

He said: “We thought it was important to call you to tell us if you are able to produce enough doctors for 48-49 million South Africans.”

Goqwana said the committee also wanted to hear why medical graduates left the country and why South Africa had such a small number of doctors catering for “70% of the population”.

The meeting was brought to a halt when all non-elected members, including the media, were asked to leave the room so that the committee could decide whether to continue.

Some journalists refused to leave, saying South Africans had a right to know about the decision.

After a debate, journalists were allowed to stay, but the meeting was called off with members saying the deans were ill-prepared.

The DA’s Mike Waters said it was “unacceptable” that not all of the universities were present.

After the deans had been called back in, Goqwana told them they would not be allowed to make their presentations, because three “key universities” that previously catered “for a particular race group in South Africa” had not attended.

“When we are discussing these things, shortage, quality [of doctors], all those things encompass whether we’ve transformed and are responding to the challenges of South Africa,” said Goqwana.

The result clearly left the deans who had attended frustrated.

Professor Wynand van der Merwe, dean of Stellenbosch University‘s health sciences faculty, said the decision “sent a message of intolerance on the part of the committee, in the absence of exactly what they wanted from us”.

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