‘Intern doctors have two options: get married or be separated for three years’
\n Katharine Child | 2017-01-20 17:17:38.0\n \n \n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n \n\n \n\n\n \n \n
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\n \n \n \n A doctor holding a stethoscope.\n \n \n \n
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\n Doctors don’t get married to avoid community service in rural areas and such accusations by the health minister are an affront to the medical community‚ according to the South African Medical Association.\n
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Doctor Justin de Freitas agreed‚ saying that accusing doctors of marrying to avoid being sent to rural areas oversimplified a complex issue.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday that many doctors marry in their sixth year just before graduating to apply to stay in a certain area close to their spouse. “I am not cynical it happens … this is a societal problem‚” he said.
The association’s president‚ Dr Mzukisi Grootboom‚ said the community service allocation system of placing doctors at rural hospitals was dogged by administrative errors and every year the association had to help mop up the “fallout”.
De Freitas said doctors couldn’t always get married while they were studying for their six-year degree because of financial difficulties‚ no full-time employment while studying and even not enough time.
After six years of studying doctors have to complete a two-year internship at larger hospitals and do one year of community service in rural areas. They are placed at one hospital for their internship and at another for community service‚ at the government’s discretion.
De Freitas said young doctors have two options: get married or face being separated from their partner for three years.
“Internship training can only be provided at certain designated facilities across the country. The chances of remaining in the city where you trained are rather slim‚” he said.
If a partner moves with the doctor to where they are allocated‚ there is no guarantee the partner will find work. “This can place further financial strain on the individuals and the relationship.”
In addition‚ unmarried couples are not allowed to co-habit at the hospital accommodation.
For financial reasons and to maintain these relationships‚ couples will move their nuptials forward. “The department’s allocation system places no stock in long-term relationships or even engagements when it comes to decisions for placement‚” De Freitas said.
But even married couples are are sometimes separated in “what can sometimes be seen as a completely random allocation system”.
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