The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has given the Department of Health almost two weeks to place all 288 eligible medical students on internship, or face court action.

This after, the department claimed to only being able to place 135 students, while negotiations to place the remaining students continue with the National Treasury.

It would be for the first time in South African history that student doctors are not placed on practical learning programmes or internships, says SAMA.

SAMA’s Dr Akhtor Hussain says it is mandatory for the department to train the interns.

“288 Qualified interns, those who qualified from South African medical schools didn’t get placed, only 133 interns have been placed. We don’t know what was the criteria to choose them and place them. So this is the first time in South African history, interns are not placed for training. That is mandatory by the Department of Health government to give them training for two years then they can qualify to practice but this is not happening. As SAMA for our members, we are preparing a court case to take the Department of Health to court,” says Hussain.

The Health Department says there are only 135 available posts at which students have been placed. The department has reiterated its stance that there would be two groups of interns this year.

The department’s Victor Khanyile says the interns were selected through an algorithm system to ensure fairness.

“The first batch obviously would be the 135 into those funded posts. The allocations have already happened and the priority of how these people were chosen. It is applicants who were eligibly certified by their institutions of higher learning between the period February and March. Those have already been allocated through an algorithm system to ensure good governance fairness and justification.”

The department says the remaining batch will be allocated internships in the next coming weeks.