Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Botswana caught up in Chinese Fong Kong medical universities’ scandal

Botswana has been using Chinese universities with questionable track records to train Batswana medical doctors, court records suggest.

This emerged in a court case in which a local medical doctor has taken Botswana Health Professions Council (BHPC) to court.  

A letter from Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Sheenaz El-Halabi addressed to the Chinese Embassy in Gaborone dated 19 October 2016 which forms part of the court records details how Botswana may have been duped into training medical doctors at Chinese universities with questionable track records.

The letter states that following a meeting with the Embassy of China, Ministry of Health and Wellness and Botswana Health Professions Council (BHPC) on the 12th October 2016, a request was made that the Embassy of China provide BHPC with a list of reputable universities and their curriculums so that BHPC could be able to advise prospective students on which universities to go to.

The letter states that for post graduate, there were different types of training, academics and clinical training. Batswana were enrolling for the academic and not the clinical training.

“During this period, the students are not registered in China as medical students and hence do not handle patients. As a result they lack clinical exposure and consequently competencies as medical specialists, in addition, students do not sit for licensure exams and hence are not registrable in China as specialists,” the letter states.

According to El-Halabi’s letter, the BPHC recommended that students should follow the same path of training as that of Chinese students and be able to sit for exit and licensure exams. Graduates do not necessarily have to register in China upon completion, the letter further states.

It says for those who have already graduated, a recommendation was made that they be enrolled back to the universities for the clinical training component.

“The Ministry had already informed the graduates to find universities for upgrading. If China could assist that would be appreciated.  It was also agreed that moving forward, BHPC would liaise with the Embassy on these matters.”

The meeting between Chinese Embassy and Ministry of Health of and BHPC officials follows a report compiled by the Council which falls short of downgrading the Chinese’s system of training medical doctors and dentists. 

BHPC which was established by an Act of Parliament is responsible for the regulation of health professionals in Botswana, sent a delegation to the People’s Republic of China in September last year.

According to the report, the BHPC delegation having extensively interrogated the Chinese system of training recommended that Postgraduate medical and dental training of foreigners (Batswana trainees included) in China does not meet standard postgraduate standards.

“Acceptable postgraduate training requires that the trainee be registered as a medical or dental practitioner in the country they train so that they can have graded responsibility and undertake all procedures expected of the their speciality of patients under their care,” states the report.

The report also recommended that further foreign graduates from China shall need further practical residency training and be subjected to a licensure examination by the BHPC or institution approved by the BHPC which they must pass prior to being registered to work in Botswana.  The duration of further practical residency training will be determined by the BHPC on a case by case basis in conjunction with collaborating with other institutions in South Africa and elsewhere; and will take into consideration the content of the training that would have been provided in China.

The BHPC will also continue registering members of the Chinese medical team to work in Botswana provided they are at a minimum level of “attending doctor” or specialists in China.

“Those members of the Chinese medical team who graduated from Traditional Chinese (TCM) programs should only be registered by the BHPC provided they come to work as acupuncturist in Botswana,” says the report. The report also states that those Batswana who have already been registered with postgraduate qualifications from China should be given a period of time to upgrade their qualifications.

The report says undergraduate medical and dental training is acceptable provided the BHPC reviews the curriculum of the institution prior to the students enrolling in the particular University. This is in view of the fact that some of the universities offer traditional Chinese Medical programs, states the report.

The report says the delegation visited Fujian Provincial Health and Family Development Commission where department of public health Vice Chief Sheng Kui Lin complained about interviews conducted by the Botswana Ministry of Health to screen Chinese volunteers wanting to come to Botswana noting that these interviews conducted in the English language disadvantaged many volunteers who are not conversant in the language. He called for the abolishing of the interviews saying that their team does enough screening to ensure that those sent to Botswana are properly qualified and ready to serve.


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