LESOTHO School of Medicine (LSoM) Dean, Dr Musi Mokete, says the support the institute was receiving from government was not enough to fulfil its mandate of training health professionals.
Speaking in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Dr Mokete said they needed money to construct lecture rooms and remunerate their staff among other expenses.
“We have the political support, but it now needs to translate into material form for the institution to grow,” Dr Mokete said.
“In other words, we need financial support to build classrooms and pay staff. That is what we are expecting. However, what we are getting is coming at a slower pace than expected.”
LSoM was officially launched on 1 September 2014 and is based at the National Health Training College (NHTC). The initial enrolment of 32 students has since been increased to 92. Since its establishment, medical students who were sent to Zimbabwe for three-year preclinical medical studies return to undertake their clinical studies at the institute.
He said while support from government was commendable, it was not adequate to achieve the institute’s objectives.
“Government has provided a lot of support by accommodating us within the NHTC. They also provided personnel, some of whom came from the Ministry of Health, as well as consultants,” said Dr Mokete, adding that the first batch of LSoM students would graduate in 2018.
“The help is there, but it’s not sufficient. We need to produce a lot more doctors since Lesotho has the alarming ratio of one doctor per 20 000 patients against the World Health Organisation benchmark of one doctor per 1 000 patients.”
The limited number of physicians, he said, had contributed to the high HIV/AIDS and pulmonary tuberculosis mortalities in the country.
Dr Mokete also noted that the challenge was also compounded by the difficulty in retaining medical personnel who tended to move to the “supposedly greener pastures” of South Africa.
“South Africa has many ways of attracting them, especially the lure of supposedly higher salaries. The reason I said supposedly is because I am taking into consideration the cost of living here at home and out there. If you were to compare two doctors, one from here and the other in SA, it would become apparent in the long run that the one who is here is better off,” he said.
“Some of the doctors who are quick to leave the country don’t appreciate the assistance they received through the National Manpower Development Secretariat scholarships. They don’t realise that they have a responsibility to serve their compatriots.”
Dr Mokete said LSoM had joined an organisation called the Consortium of New Southern African Medical Schools which seeks to share experiences and resources between newly-formed medical schools in the region. The organisation consists of medical schools from Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and Namibia
“The idea behind the consortium is for new medical schools to help each other in solving problems as we see them and in the different countries. We still align ourselves to the World Federation of Medical Education which sets the standards of operation,” he said.