20 August 2008
South Africa’s Department of Health has launched a three-year clinical associate programme designed to produce a new category of mid-level health professionals in the country.
Qualified clinical associates are able to assess patients, make diagnoses, prescribe appropriate treatments, and undertake minor surgical procedures under the supervision of medical officers.
Registration of qualified clinical associates will rest with the Medical and Dental Board of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, while their training will be conducted in district hospitals and their affiliate facilities, which will serve to strengthen primary health care services in the country.
Speaking at the launch of the programme in Umtata in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday, Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang said community health centres and district hospitals would benefit from the programme by receiving more health workers.
The Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha has selected 23 clinical associate students for the three-year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Clinical Practice.
The programme does not replace any existing medical training offered at South Africa’s universities, but aims to enable universities to increase the number of health workers they produce and thus add to the pool and diversity of the country’s health workforce.
The programme was conceived after a long process of consultation and extensive international studies.
It started in January 2008 and is currently offered at the Walter Sisulu University (former the University of Transkei) and University of Pretoria. It will commence at the University of the Witwatersrand and University of Limpopo (Medunsa Campus) in 2009.