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Not fair to blame QEH

shadiasimpson, [email protected]

Not fair to blame QEH

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IT IS UNFORTUNATE that some matters in Barbados tend to be handled similarly, with the same negative results, year after year. Few voices protest until the problem recurs. And then, for a few days, the blame game ensues. Afterwards the issue subsides until the following year when the familiar statements resurface – still with no resolution.
The arguments over the continuation of the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination, commonly called the 11-Plus, is an example of this. Another is the annual controversy generated when medical students cannot find places at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to do their internship.
This latter case surfaced this week when an anonymous email was circulated to the media, purportedly from Barbadian medical students who blamed the QEH for jeopardizing their future.
The letter said that non-Barbadian students were chosen for internships before them in a selection process that was not transparent, and called for the creation of more internship positions at the hospital.
Medical students need to do their internship at an accredited teaching hospital in order to qualify as doctors. The problem is that the QEH only has 36 posts available for interns, so when the most outstanding students are selected, those remaining must, literally, fend for themselves. And this is what causes the uproar.
Obviously, one simple solution would be to train the number of students that spaces are available for. In other words, a quota system. This, however, is equally controversial. In fact, when president of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, Dr Carlos Chase, gave this prescription to heal this reoccurring ailment, while saving taxpayers’ dollars and avoiding disappointing students, he was criticized.
Detractors viewed his recommendation as an attempt to disenfranchise eligible Barbadians from pursuing their dream, as well as to ensure there would be fewer doctors to compete with established practitioners.
Yet, we understand that when the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus established the local medical programme in 2008, they only took in 30 students because they knew just 36 internship spaces are available at the QEH. They wanted to avoid the crush for posts this year when those students would have been seeking internships.
However, that same year, ten other Barbadian students were also funded by Government to study at either the Mona campus in Jamaica or the St Augustine campus in Trinidad. These moves were compounded by Mona’s expansion to enrol nearly 300 medical students. The upshot? Barbadian students have little alternative but to do their internships here.
So this year, of the 41 eligible applications received for internships, 37 were from Barbadians. Of the 36 internship posts at QEH, six are currently occupied by Barbadians who started in January. These are expected to finish this December. In a statement, the hospital said that the 30 remaining vacancies will be filled by Barbadians.
This means that the remaining seven Barbadians applicants – six who studied at Cave Hill and one from St Augustine – have not been placed.
The QEH cannot be blamed for this situation. It occurred because of the demand for, and the lucrative business of, training medical students for the three campuses. That influenced each to have its own programme.
Each of these schools must therefore ensure that quality internship spaces are available to its medical graduates within its territory, so institutions like the QEH are not made scapegoats.