Department of Health drops funding bombshell on BEMC bursary students

The financial crisis in the Eastern Cape Department of Health has a profoundly negative impact on service delivery and bursary holders who are dependent on this funding.

A cohort of Bachelor of Emergency Medical Care (BEMC) students from Nelson Mandela University who signed four-year bursary contracts with the Department of Health in 2014, have been informed that they will have to seek external funding themselves if they want to complete their course and graduate at the end of 2017.

In June, by which time the BEMC students had one semester left to complete their studies, graduate and start working in the province, the Department of Health dropped a bombshell that it had depleted its budget.   The department owes the 16 students who are due to graduate this year, R90 000 in fees each.  It also places a question mark on the future of the 40 students currently in their first year.

At the beginning of this year, the DA placed it on record in the media that “failing to plan is planning to fail” and in this shocking case that is exactly what has transpired.

Surely the department knows that bursaries are made available to enable a cross-section of students to access further education and that by failing to manage its budget it is perpetuating discrimination that benefits those with access to funds and deprives those without access to funds?

Likewise, the Department should be aware that it is violating the terms of its bursary contract with its students who have every right to the full delivery of a contractual obligation.

I’m in the process of taking this matter up with the Department so that these students are not left in the lurch.

For the sake of our students and our patients, the DA will also seek legal advice on how to proceed with this matter.

These highly qualified and much sought after emergency care workers fulfil a vital role in life support, search and rescue at sea and on land, retrievals, resuscitation, trauma, neonatal and maternity services.

In a DA run province, young people would be treated fairly and we would stick to our agreements. We simply cannot allow shoddy planning to breach four-year contracts and deprive hard working, successful students of their promised placement opportunities.  — Celeste Barker MPL, Shadow MEC for Health