The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Solange Hakiba, has stressed the need for public health systems to be ready to contain disease outbreaks.
Hakiba cited Ebola, which she said can ravage communities in case there is no effective systems to contain it like was the case for some West African countries in the recent past.
She made the remarks in Huye District last Friday during the White Coat Ceremony (WCC) for 128 third-year medical and clinical students from UR’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS).
WCC marks medical students’ transition from a pre-clinical stage of learning to clinical health sciences.
The ceremony is intended to prepare professional doctors through providing students with well-defined guidelines regarding the expectations and responsibilities of the medical profession.
“We have seen countries that did not have systems that are strong enough to deal with the crises they face. We are learning from them to make sure that nothing like that will happen again, be it here or anywhere else,” she said.
Hakiba told the students that transitioning from preclinical to clinical world marks the beginning of a life of responsibility.
“It is that moment when you realise that everything you have been learning in the past years actually applies on a real patient, somebody who is looking up to you for healing and counsel,” she said.
Hakiba urged the students to act humanely and offer excellent healthcare.
“In the practice of medicine, you will be dealing with patients who know nothing or little about their condition. You should interact with patients without any discrimination regardless of their condition,” she said.
Hakiba called upon the students to actively engage in community-based healthcare to treat medical conditions.
Prof. Patrick Kyamanywa, the acting principal of CMHS, said the White Coat Ceremony shows students that they are undertaking a very important professional commitment.
“It is not just an additional coat, it signifies a lot. It shows students that they will be liable to answer for their actions. When you put on this coat, you have committed to respecting the ethics of the medical profession,” he said.
“We want them to know that their prime responsibility is the patient. Where they find they are short of what is required, they should consult because in the healthcare profession we work as a team,” he said.
Clarisse Mutimukeye, one of the medical students, said the ceremony reminded them of how they should behave before patients.
“We have to focus on listening to the patient and interact with them so that we adequately understand their condition and how to help them,” she said.
Increasing number of medics
Prof. Kyamanywa affirmed the commitment to train sufficient healthcare providers under the human resources strategic plan of the Ministry of Health.
The target is to have at least five key specialists in each of the over 40 district hospitals in the country.
“At the moment, we are working with the funding from the Ministry of Health and partners to increase the number of specialists. We also doubled the number of medical students and increased the number of nursing students so that we move from the current one physician per 18,000 people to at least one physician per 10,000 people by 2018. We will continue improving on that because the target is at least one physician per 5,000 people,” he said.
The event was the second WCC held by the College after the one of 2014.
The first fully-fledged WCC was created in 1993 by Dr Arnold P. Gold, a teacher and pediatric neurologist at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.