Categorized | National News

Minister Explains UWI Medical Students’ Scholarships

Minister of Health Doctor  Duane Sands says the government has to rethink the paradigm  regarding healthcare professionals in the country. He  said there has been tremendous discussion about the government’s decision to raise questions of the 65 first-year medical students presenting themselves for matriculation on the University of the West Indies (UWI) Campuses earlier this year.

“It is important to understand the background. In the early days, the UWI would have had less than five or 10 students per year.  Over time the number crept up slowly and then about seven, eight or nine years ago it exploded,” Dr. Sands explained at the Bahamas Dental Association’s Biennial Scientific Conference held at the Public Hospitals Authority, Friday, November 9, 2018.  

He said the Bahamas Government  sat  by passively with a position that if persons showed up at UWI and were able to be accepted that the government would pay 80 per cent of the fees.

“That  translates into an annual subvention in 2018 of roughly $22,000 per person.  There was no such consideration if you went to dental school; there was no such consideration if you wanted to be an optometrist or a podiatrist or a physical therapist or an occupational therapist.  Only if you went to medical school could you assume that there would be a scholarship.”

The Health Minister explained that with the development of UWI, the campuses in Barbados and Trinidad found themselves in a cash crunch and they looked to The Bahamas to make up that cash crunch.

“They have an open door policy for Bahamian students.  Why? Because they knew the Government of The Bahamas, unlike any other government, was going to pay.

“So Bahamian students became the cash flow that they required for fiscal survival.”

He said in the lead up to National Health Insurance, wonderful clinics have been created in Exuma and Abaco with incredible operative facilities and emergency rooms.

However, Dr. Sands noted that most of the equipment cannot be used because there is no auxiliary healthcare staff to take x-rays, no ultrasounds  and in many cases there is a single pharmacist, and a number of deficiencies with laboratory technicians and so forth.

“So in 2018 what we have to do is to rethink the paradigm.  Let us plan that The Commonwealth of The Bahamas needs more than medical doctors.

“Let us plan that we are going to meet the manpower needs of the country as it relates to oral health specialists, doctors, eye care, physical therapists, pharmacists, and so forth so that we approach this thing holistically.”

He said the government has no interest in reducing the investment made by the people of The Bahamas.  

“When we look at total scholarships provided by the Government of The Bahamas annually of $17 million, half of that goes to the University of the West Indies and the bulk of that goes to medical education.  That cannot be right.”

He added that the Government would also like to partner with the Bahamas Dental Association and get ideas as to how it can provide expertise in to all the islands of the nation.  He said, “I believe we need to go back to the system whereby if you benefit from a $20,000 a year scholarship from the people of The Bahamas, then you should be prepared to provide service to the people of The Bahamas where they need and when they need.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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