Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia (PSZ) president Jerome Kanyika has condemned the Higher Education Authority for overturning the Health Professional Council of Zambia’s decision to withdraw sub-standard medical courses at the Copperbelt University.

Last week, HPCZ withdrew the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the Copperbelt University (CBU) for various anomalies, a decision which was overturned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) two days later.

On Monday, HEA Director General Professor Stephen Simukanga ordered CBU to continue with the withdrawn courses.

“The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has directed the Copperbelt University (CBU) to continue running the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Dental Surgery Learning Programmes at the Higher Education Institution (HEI) until further notice. As mandated by the Higher Education Act No. 4 of 2013 and Statutory Instrument No. 25 of 2016, HEA is the custodian of all HEIs in Zambia, be it public or private, and has the authority to accredit Learning Programmes at these HEIs. For this reason, in May 2018, the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Dental Surgery Learning Programmes at CBU were audited by experts acting on behalf of HEA for purposes of accreditation. Preliminary findings of the audit indicated that the Learning Programmes had areas that needed improvement,” stated Prof Simukanga.

But in a statement, Tuesday, Kanyika condemned HEA for over turning the decision.

“We are concerned with the statement issued by Higher Education Authority (HEA) on the status on the training in two programs namely Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and Bachelor of Dental Surgery. We express our concern because the statement seem to contradict the earlier decision by Health Professional Council of Zambia (HPCZ) to stop the training and what we can see is a conflict of mandate,” Kanyika stated.

“The HPCZ act no. 24 of 2009 of the laws of Zambia, part 4 section (32), (33), (34) and (35) mandate the HPCZ to approve all the health training programs except Nursing and Mid-wifely and the public may know that Higher Education Act did not repeal the General Nursing Council and Health Professions Act, as such the mandate given to the two institutions has remained as provided for in their respective laws. Further, looking at the HEA Act no. 4 of 2013 of the laws of Zambia its provisions do not override the other two aforementioned pieces of legislation and as such the action taken by HEA may cause confusion in the minds of the public.”

Kanyika stated that the one year grace period which HEA had given CBU was too long to continue training which did not meet minimum standards.

“Much as we appreciate the urgent need to produce more health practitioners, we want to state that training of quality health practitioners must be priority. Therefore, we take the one year grace period stated by HEA as too long a period to allow training that does not reach the minimum standards to go on. We pose this question to the general public that can we allow a health worker who has been allowed a one year of sub-standard training to operate on a patient or alternatively can we allow a health worker to skip one year of their mandated training and expect them to do a correct job? The answer is “NO.” Therefore, we feel training especially for health practitioners (people dealing with human life) should not even start until the minimum standards are met,” Kanyika stated.

Meanwhile, Kanyika called on HEA to engage the HPCZ in order to harmonize areas of similar mandates and avoid future contradictions.

“The pharmaceutical Society of Zambia (PSZ) supports the stance of HPCZ to insist on institutions maintaining high standards without which guaranteeing safety from health care hazard will remain a pipe dream. We call up on HEA to engage HPCZ so as to harmonize on areas of similar mandate. As PSZ, we have noted that the laws that deal with health professions education, practice and the commodities and equipment they use are contained in different pieces of legislation and as such, we recognize that this has been a fertile ground for conflict of roles or mandate among the different institutions and as such we are in the process of engaging the Attorney General to help in interpretation of their various laws to help reduce on the confusion that the conflicting statements and actions are causing to the public,” stated Kanyika.