14 Nov 2019

More Otago uni students speak up on abused overseas placements

9:07 am on 14 November 2019

More than 60 University of Otago medical students have come forward after an overseas placement rort was uncovered.

University of Otago - tower and garden, Dunedin, New Zealand

Photo: 123rf

A university investigation found last week that 15 final year medical students used their overseas placements to go on holiday and then lied about it.

On Saturday, the University of Otago asked all trainee interns to speak up if they thought they may have done something untoward on their placement.

Many came forward, but Resident Doctors' Association national secretary Dr Deborah Powell said the figure did not show the true picture with students mostly reporting concerns about sick leave they had taken or time taken to reach their placements.

Only a couple of students appeared to have falsified papers or done something similarly serious, she said.

Students were stressing however, because they could not start their new jobs if they had not graduated and were not registered as doctors, she said.

The university has yet to confirm whether the students will be eligible to graduate in a couple of weeks' time.

"They're very distressed. These are very hardworking, honest, dedicated people. They've committed six years of their lives training to be doctors and expected to graduate and start work in a couple of weeks so the uncertainty is incredibly stressful and unsettling for them," Dr Powell said.

"We don't have much time. These people are due to commence work on the 25th of November - that's Monday week. In that time, they have to be graduated and then they have to be registered by the Medical Council so it's a pretty tight turnaround."

The association understood the university might not make its decision on the fate of the students until next Friday, she said.

"That means that the Medical Council will not be able to get those people registered before they're due to start."

The association is working with the medical council and the district health boards to ensure any delays to registration will not leave patients unattended.

While the university needed to do its due diligence in making a decision, Dr Powell hoped students would have an answer soon.

The University of Otago has been approached for comment.

The Resident Doctors' Association confirmed it did not know of any other similar breaches.

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