The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the enormous stress placed on South Africa’s medical professionals have dramatically strengthened the NWU’s case for a medical school in the North West Province.
A long-awaited meeting between the university and the provincial government has resulted in the formation of a joint task team to work on the finer detail of the establishment of a medical school at the NWU.
On 26 March 2021, Dr Bismark Tyobeka, Council chairperson, Prof Dan Kgwadi, vice-chancellor, and Prof Awie Kotze, excecutive dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, met with North West Premier Prof Job Mokgoro and high-ranking members of his executive committee.
At the meeting, a decision was taken to establish a joint technical task team to further refine and strengthen the NWU’s medical school plan.
“The updated business plan was shared with the provincial officials and very important points were discussed to strengthen the plan further. The North West Province once again gave its full support to a medical school,” explains Awie, under whose faculty the envisaged medical school will reside.
The new technical task team will give immediate attention to a number of areas of mutual interest. These include building stronger co-operation between the NWU School of Nursing and the Provincial Nursing College, training community healthcare workers to strengthen the clinical training platform and identifying mutually beneficial research projects.
“This is a matter that we will continue to pursue because we strongly believe that the new NWU Medical School would address the needs of prospective students and the public in terms of enrolment opportunities and public health in our country,” Dr Bismark remarked after the Council meeting of 18 March 2021.
Given the ever-growing demand for medical professionals, the NWU is clearly on track to fill an urgent need not only in the North West Province, but South Africa and the region as a whole.
The NWU believes that it has crafted a unique and compelling value proposition in planning for the proposed medical school. The institution is confident that, despite the high cost of operating a medical school, the NWU will be able to establish the facility and keep operating costs down without sacrificing the quality of training and eventual outcomes.
The possibility of establishing a medical school was mooted as long ago as 2006 but it was only in 2017 that planning moved into high gear.
The NWU hosted a webinar last year highlighting the dire need for more qualified medical personnel, especially medical doctors, to enter the healthcare system each year. The medical skills shortage has only worsened during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
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How the medical school will work
The proposed medical school will be known as the NWU School of Medicine and will be the sixth school in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Prof Awie Kotzé is the executive dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences under which the envisaged medical school will reside.
Located on the Mahikeng and Potchefstroom campuses, the School of Medicine plans to offer a unique pre-health sciences year, which will be a higher certificate aimed at accommodating students who might otherwise not have qualified to study medicine or another degree programme.
For qualifying candidates, this bridging qualification will then be followed by the five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree. It can also be an exit qualification for another B degree, or for the workplace.
The school will use up to 10 regional and district hospitals in the North West Province for doctor training through the addition of innovative digital clinical learning centres.
The new school will also have a close working relationship with other medical schools, primarily with Wits, the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and the University of Pretoria.
One of the important characteristics of the new school will be that its curriculum will actively support the concept of primary healthcare. The idea is to eventually develop a very large-scale medical school to meet the medical needs of the populations of the North West Province, South Africa and the African continent.
is taking shape
"The meeting with the provincial officials was yet another important positive step in the process of establishing a unique and highly differentiated new medical school. It will be capable of producing large and increasing numbers of professional, competent medical doctors with skills relevant to the communities they serve, providing training that is both affordable and sustainable."
- Prof Awie Kotzé, executive dean, Faculty of Health Sciences