DUT AND KZN HEALTH DEPARTMENT PARTNER IN ADDRESSING CRITICAL MEDICAL ORTHOTISTS AND PROSTHETISTS SHORTAGE
Media Statement by Alan Khan, Senior Director: Corporate Affairs at the Durban University of Technology
South Africa currently faces a dire shortage of registered medical orthotists and prosthetists with only 420 registered medical orthotists and prosthetists (MOPs) practicing in the country.
Exacerbating this situation is the fact that orthotist and prosthetist students are produced by one institution in the country, with those qualifying being shared by the entire country.
However, plans to improve this situation are in place, with the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department forming a partnership with the Durban University of Technology in establishing a programme which will annually see 30 bursary sponsored students – who meet the programme’s selection criteria – being enrolled to study towards a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Medical Orthotics and Prosthetics. The four-year course will be offered under DUT’s Health Sciences Faculty, with bursaries being offered by the provincial Health Department.
“Tshwane University of Technology has been the only higher education institution in South Africa offering medical orthotists and prosthetists as a course for the past twenty to thirty years. The course was offered by the former ML Sultan Technikon (now DUT) as a diploma about thirty to forty years ago. We are extremely excited about the establishment of this programme at DUT,” said Greg Bass, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences at DUT.
MPOs design and make artificial limbs (prosthetics) and surgical appliances such as splints, external braces and surgical shoes (orthotics) which support joints or body parts. These appliances, to name a few, support patients who have suffered from strokes, neurological injuries as well as provide post operative support.
In his 2012 budget speech, KZN Health Department MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said 19 495 orthotic and 2 954 prosthetic patients were serviced by his Department. It was in 2010 that DUT was approached by the Department to offer the course as a result of the dire need for qualified MPO clinicians in the province.
Currently, orthopedic services in KZN are based at the Wentworth Hospital and in two satellite centres in Pietermaritzburg and King Edward VIII Hospital. These three centres provide orthopedic services to all of KZN, catering for the needs of approximately 45 outreach clinics which can be reached by road or flying with the Red Cross teams.
Bass said patients wait for about nine to 12 months for a prosthetic leg at Wentworth Hospital. This is mainly due to the shortage of available funds as well as qualified clinicians and technicians in the field. “There is a dire need for this medical service especially in the outlying areas. The whole idea behind establishing this programme is to train sufficient clinicians for the public service who will help poor and disadvantaged communities,” he said.
The first batch of 32 students started lectures in July this year (2013). The programme will be based at DUT until construction of the laboratories at Wentworth Hospital is complete. At the hospital, students will be closer to patients and will receive greater clinical training.
Construction of the labs should be complete in January next year (2014). Graduates will be compelled to work for the provincial Health Department for a minimum of four years.
For interviews with the Durban University of Technology about the programme, please contact Sinegugu Ndlovu.
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