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We are exposed, students claim

Vice chancellor of the University of Johannesburg Tshilidzi Marwala.
Vice chancellor of the University of Johannesburg Tshilidzi Marwala.
Image: Thulani Mbele

A group of radiography students who do practicals at Johannesburg hospitals have expressed concerns about their safety.

On Monday, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) announced the suspension of classes and practicals.

However, because part of their studies include work-integrated learning, they are required to work in hospitals, the students said.

The students, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said they were forced to work, and do practicals, even though UJ vice chancellor and principal Professor Tshilidzi Marwala ordered that all practicals must be cancelled.

"We work in private and public hospitals, and in one of the hospitals we had a patient who tested positive for corona-virus.

"We are not paid, or covered, by the hospital, and should we catch the virus we are on our own," said one student on behalf of the group.

The students said they work from 7.30am to 4pm, with no compensation.

"We feel exploited, and no one seems to be thinking about our safety.

"What we don't understand is that going to hospital is part of academics, but the academics have been suspended due to coronavirus."

Executive dean of health science faculty Professor Sehaam Khan said the training centres offering placements to their students have "assured us that they have implemented protocols that as far as possible limit the spread of corona virus".

"We have been assured that those placed in hospitals are screened when they enter the hospitals. As a profession, medical imaging and radiation science (Mirs) is part of an essential service. Mirs students are thus requested to remain within the clinical setting," Khan said.

Khan encouraged students to bring their legitimate concerns to their attention.

Head of medical imaging and radiation science department Lynne Hazell said Mirs provided an essential service to the healthcare environment.

"The radiology department is vital in the diagnosis of the coronavirus using our CT scans. The students were told to be vigilant regarding their own health and as healthcare professions students they were also encouraged to be adaptable," said Hazell.

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