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No room in the inn yet for Medical School graduates

No room in the inn yet for Medical School graduates

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Nearly 12 years after SEARCHLIGHT published a story headlined ‘Doctors at Large,’ about Vincentian medical school graduates unable to find work, the situation in 2017 for some recent graduates is just as bleak.

There are at present five young medical doctors who graduated from medical schools in the Republic of Cuba who have been unemployed since returning home, eager to serve the nation which sent them abroad on scholarships six years ago.

And although the Government has more than doubled (nine new positions were added) the number internship positions since 2004, it is insufficient to keep up with the rate at which Vincentians are seeking to do their internship here in SVG.

Doctors Curle Walker, Nicole Cupid, Jomo Laidlow, Danielle Myers, Keverna Williams and Tshaka Patterson graduated from Cuban medical schools with good grades and great hopes in July 2016.

Dr Patterson luckily had sought the option of beginning his internship in Belize and has been practising there since September.

One of the unemployed medics, who returned home last August, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that while the agreement they signed with the Government does not guarantee them a position in the internship programme, the Prime Minister on a few occasions encouraged them to come home.

“The Prime Minister visited Cuba a couple times and he said that we are guaranteed a job … [and] we should come back and serve our country and don’t run away like everybody else.”

The young graduate said her life is in St Vincent and while she would like to specialize in psychiatry, she cannot afford to do so right now.

Chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Simone Keizer-Beache told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that the maximum number of internship positions the local health service can accommodate in order to maintain an accredited internship programme is 25, based on the number of patient beds in the entire government health system.

Dr Keizer Beache said that in 2016, there were 17 intern positions, and an additional eight positions were requested for 2017, to bring the total to 25. The 2017 Estimates include five new intern positions.

She explained “If there are too many persons in an internship programme, there is a risk of making the programme and all of the persons in the programme invalid.”

As of December 2016, all of the 17 posts of intern were occupied and four additional persons on the SET programme are enrolled in the two-year internship programme.

Keizer-Beache noted that at present, therefore, the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment’s (MOHWE) internship programme only has the capacity to accept four more persons if the programme is to remain valid.

Relative to intern posts, she said it is most likely that the new posts would be given to those persons presently on the one-year SET programme. Those persons waiting to start their internship might then be accommodated in the vacated SET positions.

Dr Keizer-Beache explained that in order to be accepted in the internship programme, one has to have a medical degree, which can be a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) or a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD).

The CMO disclosed that the Medical Board of SVG (the entity responsible for registering medical practitioners), the senior medical staff of the MOHWE and the Medical Accreditation Committee have proposed additional requirements for entry into the internship programme and for registration as medical practitioners. These requirements are meant to ensure that prospective interns are ready to start the internship programme and to be successfully registered as medical practioners at the end of the two-year internship.

Keizer-Beache said the problem of insufficient internship positions is not unique to SVG and noted that when she returned home from Barbados in 1997, that country was facing a problem where only Barbadians were being accepted in the internship programme there.

At present, there are 35 Vincentians pursuing medical degree programmes in universities across Cuba, five of whom are due to graduate this July.

Keizer-Beache, however, sadly noted that none of these students would be immediately placed in the internship programme and they would have to wait until a vacancy becomes available.

In addition to the medical students in Cuba, there are also Vincentians pursuing medical degrees here in SVG, in Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Taiwan, among other countries.

Medical doctors must complete an approved internship programme before they can be registered by the appropriate council which would then allow them to practise as medical doctors.

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