By Kurt Campbell
Over 80 Guyanese have been granted scholarships for entry into the Medical School of the University of Guyana this year but the country’s premier institution is giving early notice that it will have to turn away many of the eligible and deserving students, including scores more who will be applying outside of the scholarship programme.
In fact, the News Room has learnt that the Medical School, recently renamed College of Medicine, has been turning away between 100 – 150 students on an annual basis because of the lack of space for clinical rotation in hospitals across the country.
What that means is that there aren’t enough beds in the country’s hospitals to allow for the admission of patients that will, in turn, allow for studying doctors to have the level of patient interaction needed to complete their studies.
With its international accreditation up for review by 2021, having been revoked in the past, UG’s Medical School is lobbying the government to help retain that accreditation amid a need for expansion of several programmes at the Masters and Postgraduate level.
In order to do so, the University of Guyana is requesting that the government move swiftly to upgrade regional hospitals throughout the country by expanding infrastructure and staffing.
While not new, the appeal to the government came from Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana Dr. Paloma Mohamed and was pitched directly to President Irfaan Ali at the weekend.
Dr. Mohamed explained that is no easy thing to get accreditation and implored that everything must be done to keep that accreditation while at the same time responding to the needs of the population for training.
She said following talks with the Ministry of Health, the University has been able to increase the annual number from 40 to 50 students but she lamented the fact that this is done while double that number continues to be turned away for a simple issue that can be fixed.
“Every year we tell students that if you work hard, if you focus, if you study and burn the midnight oil and you do well we will ensure that you realize your dreams but when they get to the apex institution we have to say to them, many of them who are deserving, that we do not have space to train them,” she said while speaking at the opening of the Dr. Yesu Persaud Clinical Education Center on Saturday.
The Vice-Chancellor called President Irfaan Ali’s attention to the issue, saying that it is no good issue to have.
“Mr. President I want to address this directly with you because you speak about dreams and you speak to the young people and you know what it is like to have a dream and don’t know what to do… if we can manage to expand the number of beds in the regional hospitals and upgrade them then we will be able to take in more students to create more doctors,” she added.
In a separate interview with the News Room on the sidelines of the event, Director of the School of Medicine Dr. Rita Gobin stressed that expanding regional hospital would also ensure that communities will be served better but more importantly, it was important in ensuring that the School keeps its accreditation.
Full accreditation by the Jamaica-based Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education, Medicine, and other Health Professions [CAAM-HP], had only been restored in 2017.
Dr. Gobin explained that part of keeping that accreditation requires that there are adequate numbers of patients for students to get exposure before they graduate.
In order to keep accreditation and to be considered worthy to train doctors the school is required to ensure that they are doing clinical rotation in a hospital with 120 beds.
“This is why you can’t teach medicine online; you can teach the theory but you have to have the practice,” she added.
The School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Guyana is the national institution established to be a first class center for medical education and training in the region.
The government has announced plans to upgrade the West Demerara, Suddie, Bartica hospitals.