Government has allowed medical and health training institutions to resume normal studies. Other institutions of higher learning remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comes a week after the government instructed the Ministries of Education and Health and the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) officials to meet and discuss the safe reopening of medical schools.
While issuing the directives during the lifting of the nationwide lockdown on July 30th, Museveni listed medical students as a source of specialized human resources for the health sector.
Apparently, trainee doctors and nurses are engaged in the mandatory internship, which involves doing clinical work at the various hospitals and providing support to senior doctors and nurses.
Now in her circular issued on Friday, Professor Mary Okwakol, the Executive Director of the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) notes that after meeting officials from the health and education ministries, they agreed to reopen medical schools starting with the finalist and postgraduate classes.
“…the rest of the years shall join in a staggered manner, maintaining a maximum of 33 percent of learners in each institution at any time. The institutions are encouraged to continue training the preclinical classes remotely using the Open, Distance, and Electronic learning-ODEL, and students come for practicums when conditions allow,” Professor Okwakol noted.
Saulo Waigolo, the NCHE spokesperson, says that although the official document released by the council put the reopening on August 30, 2021, the date has been revised after several other meetings and consultations. “They will reopen on August 13 not 30th as indicated in the circular, there have been changes to the reopening….,” said Waigolo.
But, the council notes that before any institution is allowed to reopen, emphasis will be put on the level of vaccination, access to personal protective equipment-PPEs, compliance to standard operating procedures and access to testing.
According to the guidelines, all students are expected to be vaccinated before reporting since they are considered part and parcel of the earlier inaugural program for the vaccination of health workers.
“Students (and teaching staff) are therefore advised to get vaccinated as vaccine become available,” the circular read in parts. Adding that, “those who will not have accessed vaccines by the time of reopening will be vaccinated on arrival at the schools.”
Prof Okwakol also warned institutions to desist from concealing suspected COVID-19 cases to avoid the reoccurrence of rampant transmissions that happened in some schools before the second school closure and the lockdown was instituted.
There were signals of a surge in COVID-19 cases in health training institutions, mainly nursing schools. Data from the ministry of health indicated that by late May government had detected 803 positive cases of COVID-19 from 29 schools, ten of which were health training institutions.
Last month, the association of principals of health training institutions petitioned the education ministry requesting for the reopening of medical schools since they are training future frontline workers who should learn how to handle all situations at all times.