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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY – THE CASE OF UNEMPLOYED DOCTORS

Dear Editor,

UNTIL recently, Zambia only had the University of Zambia, Ridgeway Campus, as a medical school, graduating about 50 medical doctors per year.

However, to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (STGS), we have among other things committed to reducing the doctor-patient ratio.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Zambia has one doctor per 12, 000 patients.

The WHO acceptable standard ratio is one physician per 5, 000 people.

To this effect, Government accelerated the training of medical doctors and health workers.

New medical universities have been opened and new nursing and lab tech training schools were constructed and opened.

Further, education licences were given to private trainers to meet the urgent requirement.

On the case of doctors, besides the University of Zambia, Ridgeway Campus, we now have:

1. Levy Mwanawasa Medical University

2. Copperbelt University of Medicine.

3. Lusaka Apex University.

4. University of Lusaka.

5. Zambia Royal Medical University.

 6. Texila American University.

7. Cavendish University.

This is what has been done. For example, we had a critical challenge with accountants where only University of Zambia, Ndola Campus (Copperbelt University) and Evelyn Hone College were training senior accountants.

The Mines supplemented this by opening Chingola School of Accountancy.

The shortage however persisted for accountants with higher qualifications who could only obtain their grades in the United Kingdom.

It was until the Zambia Centre for Accountancy Studies was established that the crisis of accountants was resolved.

Zambia actually reached a saturation and ZCAS itself was in 2016 transformed into a university offering broader course beyond accountancy.

Like it has happened in other professions, we need to look at this matter of doctors critically.

Government absorption capacity to employ is limited. The number of unemployed teachers, nurses, lab technician is growing every day.

We now have over 500 doctors who have not been employed as a result of this expanded training (this burden is squarely on Government shoulders).

Government has pledged to recruit the doctors and nurses and has engaged Treasury to create fiscal space for this.

At the rate we are going, should we say every trained doctor must be employed by the  government? Or should this be limited to every doctor trained by a government-owned university should automatically be employed by the state?  Should we exclude those being trained by the private sector?

Government is already spending over 52 percent of its national budget on 200, 000 civil servants salaries alone. This is before commitments of debt service and national development projects are taken into consideration.

The ability by government to continue expanding the wage bill will come at the expense of national development.

Because of budget constraints, we now have over 50, 000 teachers, 17, 000 nurses and over 500 doctors unemployed. I think for example, a moratorium of five years should be applied on teacher training, or the training of key professionals such as doctors, nurses and teachers should be a preserve of government-owned facilities so that in its planning, we should not have a scenario where key personnel such doctors, teachers or nurses are Unemployed!

What’s your view?

EMMANUEL MWAMBA.

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