Medical experts have confirmed that the training for Malawian medical students in China, unlike in other countries, is theoretical and lacks clinical practicals, and have challenged the Medical Council of Malawi (MCM) to correct the anomaly.
Asked to confirm that in China Malawian medical students are not allowed to conduct physical examinations of patients unlike in other countries where Malawian students are trained on advanced technology not available in the country, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Charles Mwansambo said: “Medicine is a hands-on profession. There is indeed something significantly missing in that training. The Medical Council of Malawi has to follow up on this issue.”
Weighing in on the issue, Society of Medical Doctors (SMD) spokesperson Bridget Malewezi agreed with Mwansambo that MCM, as a regulator that checks and vets qualifications of every doctor in the country, needs to look into the matter.
But Malewezi added that medical students trained abroad, in general, and not only in China, have skills sets that are different from those acquired locally; hence the need for examinations and internships.
“We recognise that the skills set that people are trained not just in China but any other jurisdiction might not have the same training or skills required that Malawi trained doctors get, so it’s something worth following up with Medical Council of Malawi,” she said.
Three medical graduates from China, who are now practising in the country, also told Weekend Nation in separate interviews this week that when they return to Malawi, they find it difficult to cope with the task before them because they don’t have prior hands-on experience on the work they are supposed to do here as opposed to their fellow students trained locally.
They observed this is because while in training they are not allowed to physically examine patients.
Said one medical worker: “You are expected to know things that you were just taught in theory; so, we become nervous because at times, one does not know what to do. There is no special training on certain issues; you just end up in the deep end of things.”
Another graduate said: “The teaching [in China] is less hands-on than ours here in Malawi, so there is already less opportunity to examine a patient. Secondly, the language is a barrier; so, you spend three years in class basically not understanding half of the content. It’s really hard to confidently go into the clinical setting and do your job.
When contacted for a comment on the practice, officials at the Chinese Embassy asked for more time saying they needed to check with their headquarters.
Registrar for MCM Richard Ndovie, in a separate interview on Wednesday, admitted that there is a problem on the training and added that the regulator received a report that foreign trained doctors struggle to do internship when they return home.
Ndovie said following the development, central hospitals which offer internship for medical students had since put in place special training for Chinese as well as other foreign students to fill the gap.
According to Ndovie, MCM resolved that all medical students trained abroad should sit for the Council’s Certified Examinations before being subjected to internship.
To acquire a licence to practice in the country, medical doctors do internship for 18 months, dentists and dental therapists do it for a year while clinical officers, optometrists and physiotherapists internship is also done for a year.
According to Ndovie, the qualifying examinations in both theory and clinical practice are important as graduates come from all over the world, including China, Russia, Cuba, Turkey, South Sudan, Ukraine, United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK) and the South America region.
He added that the training environment in all these countries is different in terms of technology and disease burden, hence the need to put up standards to meet both local and international needs.