Trainee medical registrars boycott final exams, argue doctors’ strike denied them practical learning

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By Paidashe Mandivengerei

DOZENS of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) postgraduate medical registrars, Monday boycotted their end of course examinations claiming they missed out on crucial practical lessons due to the ongoing strike by junior doctors.

The defiant trainee registrars said they will not be sitting for all their medical disciplines – medicine, surgery, anesthesia, gynaecology – because they lost their chance to undergo practical lectures.

The medical students argued that unlike theory in which one is tested on what they have read, practicals required hands-on experience.

Failure to get this, they argued, would result in them emerging as half-baked doctors who would later in their professional lives become a hazard to patients.

Trainee registrars who spoke to at the UZ College of Health Sciences at Parirenyatwa in Harare, threatened to sue the higher learning institution for going against regulations if they were forced to sit for the exams.

“For you to be a doctor, you need the hands-on experience; it is the practical experience that is needed. With theory, you can read but practical is what is more important,” argued one trainee.

“That is the reason why medicine is not taught by medical correspondence.

“Most of us missed about two thirds of the practical teaching. Therefore, we cannot sit for those examinations and that means adhering to the university regulations which state that we should not sit for those exams until we do those 12 weeks of clinical rotation.”

He added, “The hospitals are closed; this is the learning environment, and these are the only places we can do the practicals; Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals then Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) for National University of Science and Technology (NUST) students. This affects both post and undergraduate students.

“You cannot set an exam when you know that the learning conditions were not optimum.

“Undergraduate students refused to write the exams and said, ‘until you give us adequate teaching, we are not going to sit for the exams because it’s a sham’; so it’s the same even for us,” the trainee registrar said.

According to university regulations, a student can only sit for exams after completing teaching of their particular course.

However, owing to the absence of patients and doctors in hospitals for the past two months, the medical students missed their bedside teaching and lectures.

Hundreds of public hospital junior doctors embarked on a crippling strike action over poor wages and working conditions.

Government has since fired more than 200 of them for defying its orders to return to work.