Professor Olukayode Adeleke, from the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences held the first Rural Clinical School workshop towards the establishment of the first WSU Rural Clinical School in the Eastern Cape.

This comes months after the signing, a memorandum of Understanding (MOA) between WSU and the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDOF) in November 2023 stipulating that WSU will collaborate with ECDOH to establish a Rural Clinical School at St Elizabeth Hospital in Lusikisiki.

“Our faculty is strategically placed to address challenges that hinge the healthcare system of the Eastern Cape and therefore its efforts should be refocused to support that mandate. This workshop is just one of the steps we are taking towards developing a rural clinical program that will solely,” said Adeleke.

Met with the challenge of shortage of doctors in rural areas of the EC, the faculty’s mandate seeks to strengthen rural health by producing future-ready graduates that will address the gap in rural healthcare.

Lusikisiki has been identified as one of the central healthcare establishments due to its strategic location and the presence of essential healthcare infrastructure, encompassing roughly 40 villages within a 60-kilometer radius, situated 130 kilometers from Mthatha via R61 and 190 kilometers via N2, highlighting the need for localized healthcare services.

The recently renovated St. Elizabeth Hospital, which serves as a regional healthcare hub and referral centre for Holy Cross, Bambisana, and OAT Regional Hospital, plays a crucial role in this decision. This hospital not only caters to local district hospitals and communities, but also helps reduce referrals to the Central Hospital from the eastern region,” said Adeleke.

As part of their strategy, Adeleke said WSU students receive training in rural healthcare from 5th year under the Integrated Longitudinal Clinical Clerkship (ILCC) program where they visit rural areas with doctors as part of their training.

“Establishing the Rural Clinical School allows students to gain practical experience in a rural setting while addressing the healthcare needs of underserved communities. This initiative supports the university’s commitment to integrating community engagement within its academic programmes, ensuring that students receive hands-on training in real-life environments.”

He added, “The presence of a well-functioning regional hospital like St. Elizabeth provides an optimal learning platform and enhances healthcare services in the region,” said Adeleke.”

Joining the gathering was former interim Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Khaya Mfenyane who highlighted a long history of the faculty’s dedication to rural healthcare in the province stemming from its establishment as the 8th Medical School in South Africa in 1985.

Mfenyane spoke of the heartbreaking circumstances of the rural areas where black people of the former Transkei had inadequate access to healthcare services.

According to Mfenyane WSU medical school became the first faculty of health sciences to introduce ‘Problem-Based Learning’ and ‘Community-Based Education’ after partnering with the Unitra Community Health Partnership (UCHPP) in 1991.

“It brings me great joy to see that the vision of the faculty and the university remains committed to growth and community service through adequate healthcare. This alignment was the primary objective in establishing the faculty and implementing community-based education, which offers students practical learning opportunities in real-life settings while addressing the needs of rural and underserved communities,” said Mfenyane.

While delivering the State of the Faculty Address in May, the Executive Dean of Faculty, professor Wezile Chitha touched on the significance of the faculty undertaking community-based education to develop the rural areas of the EC.

“Through knowledge produced from our core programmes in education, research, and community engagement, we collaborate with our government, partners and local communities to build local health systems, deliver high-quality healthcare to the rural and underserved communities, contribute to better health outcomes and bring about change in health status of vulnerable populations,” said Chitha.

He added that the faculty is committed to community engagement, ensuring that all academic programs integrate this aspect within their activities.

“We learn in the community. We learn with the community. We learn from the community. We serve while we learn.”

By Ongezwa Sigodi

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