Picture: 123RF/Somsak Sudthangtum
Picture: 123RF/Somsak Sudthangtum

Doctors waiting to be officially registered before they can start their internships, and move on to different levels of work, have been given a reprieve by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) to ensure it can still happen in January. 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has placed immense pressure on health systems and health professionals such as doctors, it has also affected the administrative processes necessary to allow these new doctors to legally work in SA’s hospitals. 

Registration with the HPCSA is required to practise as a doctor.

In a circular sent out on Tuesday to all hospital CEOs, Munyadziwa Kwinda, acting registrar of the HPCSA, said most universities and training institutions’ calendars were affected by the pandemic and the lockdown, and study programmes were completed much later than usual. 

As a result of the delays, intern doctors had not been registered by the time they were due to start work on January 1 2021, as a result of a submissions backlog at the HPSCA. 

Doctors completing their internships and who would be moving on to community service or independent practice were also affected by the delays caused by the pandemic. 

“Given the new normal all stakeholders have had to contend with for nine months of 2020, HPCSA, after consultation with other stakeholders, endeavours to make regulations work effectively by ensuring that professionals are registered correctly, and regulations will be implemented to avoid discrimination,” Kwinda said. 

While all universities had now submitted registration documents for locally trained medical graduates, not all the submissions were compliant to effect registration and still needed to be corrected, Kwinda said. 

Adding to the pressure was that the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration, which allows for training of SA medical students in Cuba, had produced 377 medical graduates who are ready to register as interns.

“This is inevitably causing delays in HPCSA processing all interns to start on January 1 2021 or as close as possible to that date. Graduates not registered timeously end up starting their training much later, and if this is much later than mid-January, the structure of internship training is impacted to the extent they would have to delay training by a whole quarter and only start training from April 1 2021 — an untenable situation which is avoidable,” Kwinda said. 

As a result of this, the deadline for registrations has been extended to January 31 to ensure that correct paperwork is submitted and registration effected.

Interns going on to become community-service doctors whose registrations had not been completed because their applications were not compliant will also be able to register in January. 

Doctors whose internships were only confirmed and signed off late in 2020 and who had not yet been registered as community-service doctors would  be registered on the day their application was received. No backdating would be allowed.  

Applications from health professionals who had completed community service as at December 31, been correctly signed off and had to be registered in independent practice would be registered as of January 1 if their applications were received by mailbox on or before  January 1. 

If their applications were received by the HPCSA on any date after January 1, they would be registered on the later January date. 

The HPCSA said no backdating of registration would be permissible.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the SA Medical Association, said they welcomed the HPCSA’s accommodating those who were unable to adhere to the deadline for registrations at the end of 2020. 


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