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Thursday, 17th August 2017 

Student protests will have deadly consequences

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and industry representatives told Sowetan they were expecting deaths at hospitals if health sciences students, expected to graduate this year, are not ready to work as interns from January 1. Motsoaledi said community hospitals, especially in rural areas, would be without doctors.

"It will be felt very acutely in 2018. Next year [if the academic year does not resume] we won't get interns, so we will feel it a little bit. It will be a small tremor. But the cascade will come in 2018 when, because there were no interns, there are no doctors to do community service,'' said Motsoaledi.

"Hospitals that depend on community service ... they might have no doctors at all."

South African Medical Association vice chairman, Professor Mark Sonderup, said the health system was "heavily rested" on junior doctors. "It's unthinkable to not have new interns in January. The system simply would not function," said Sonderup. "The potential for not accessing the care you need would be so grave that it would result in potential mortality."

Motsoaledi said there was no back-up plan. "Mortality is definitely going to increase, there's no question about it. It's not a nice thing to say, but unfortunately these are the realities," he said.

University of Cape Town spokesperson, Pat Lucas, said lectures were disrupted again at the health sciences faculty yesterday. This despite plans to reopen campus after a two-week shutdown.
"The hundreds of health science graduates who are scheduled to enter the health system in January will be unable to do so. This will put an already compromised health system at further risk," said Lucas.

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