The Medical and Dental Council (MDC) has started the implementation of a policy that bars trained doctors, especially those trained outside the country, from sitting for the mandatory registration examination after five attempts.
The policy immediately renders ineligible all persons who have written the examination for more than five times; they do not have a chance anymore.
The MDC explained that the move was to ensure public safety and effective regulation of the practice of medicine and dentistry in the country.
It forms part of policy reforms in line with professional regulatory best practices to ensure that all doctors working in Ghana meet the minimum competency standards to provide safe quality healthcare services in the public interest.
Until the implementation of the policy there was no limit to the number of times a trained doctor or dentist could sit for the MDC's examination to obtain a licence to practise.
The Registrar of the MDC, Dr Divine N. Banyubala, told the Daily Graphic that the council had to take the decision because it wanted to secure the public interest by ensuring the highest standards in the training and practice of medicine and dentistry for the public good.
The MDC is the statutory agency under the Ministry of Health responsible for the regulation of the training and practice of medicine and dentistry.
Dr Banyubala pointed out that the council was mandated by law to assess facilities and content of training programmes and conduct examinations for the registration of practitioners, among others.
The MDC Registrar said the council had observed that over the years the number of Ghanaians receiving training in medicine and dentistry outside the country had been increasing, yet the standards and performance of the candidates from the foreign institutions at the registration examinations "have been worrying, poor and of grave concern to the council and key stakeholders.
Some of the stakeholders who have also expressed concern include the Ministry of Health, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, as well as supervisors and trainers in the various health institutions,” he said.
Some of the jurisdictions where such low quality medical and dental trainees came from were Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and China, the Registrar said.
The council, Dr Banyubala said, undertook the policy reforms after extensive consultative engagements and in fulfilment of its objective to ensure that basic and pre-registration training of medical and dental practitioners were in accordance with international regulatory best practice.
He said a review of the poor performance of candidates indicated that some of the foreign medical schools admitted students with poor West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) results, while others had a poor knowledge base in the basic sciences.
Some of the institutions also had sub-standard capabilities in clinical examination or inadequate exposure to practical or hands-on skills acquisition.
Also, the MDC Registrar observed that the commercialisation of admissions to the various medical universities, mainly through recruitment agencies for a fee, and graduates from some of the foreign training institutions who were not licensed to practise in the country of training after their basic qualification were contributing factors.
That means those wishing to do so had to undergo additional years of training before they could take the registration examination of the host countries, Dr Banyubala said.
In line with the new policy, the MDC Registrar said, effective February next year, only candidates from institutions recognised by the council would be admitted to sit for the Council's Registration Examination.
Also, he said, effective 2024, only candidates with a science background with a minimum of a credit in all subjects from Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) and WASSCE or equivalent would be eligible to sit the Council’s examinations.
"Applicants with a non-science background would be required to undergo a preliminary course in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics or related subjects for a period of two to three years before they will be admitted to a medical university to pursue medicine or dentistry, after a successful completion with a minimum grade of a credit in all the subjects," Dr Banyubala stated.
On the other hand, he said, candidates not licensed in their country of training before sitting and passing the council's registration examination must complete a mandatory two-year housemanship before undertaking specialist training in any discipline of their choice.
The Registrar further revealed that effective October this year, all candidates seeking to register for the council’s registration examination would be required to submit for verification the original or certified true copies of their academic certificates, including the SSCE/WASSCE or equivalent.
Dr Banyubala said effective February next year, the registration examination would consist of two stages: theory and multiplechoice questions; and a clinical stage of objective structured clinical examination or objective structured practical examination.
The council recommended that all medical universities training doctors and dentists should allow students in the fifth year of their studies to undertake between six months and a year’s practical clinical attachment in Ghana.
Dr Banyubala said recognised foreign training institutions must enter into formal arrangements with various medical training institutions in Ghana to afford their trainees the opportunity to do a structured and wellcoordinated clinical attachment with logbooks, which must be signed by an authorised representatives of the local partnermedical or dental training institution before being returned to the respective foreign medical university to complete their programmes.