Wednesday 26 February, 2020

T&T Medical Association: Lack of opportunities for specialisation

The Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association (TTMA) called out Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh on his move to hire specialist doctors from Cuba, saying that the opportunities for specialisation within Trinidad and Tobago are so limited it has created a 'brain drain'.

In a statement issued Friday, Acting Public Relations Officer, Dr Colin Mootoo, said the 11 specialist fields that Deyalsingh said could not be filled within Trinidad and Tobago is due to the lack of opportunities for specialisation.

Deyalsingh announced earlier this week that he would be visiting Cuba in order to fill vacancies for specialist positions that could not be filled in Trinidad and Tobago. 

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He added that postings to rural communities would not provide the path to specialisation that many doctors seek, which leads to many doctors seeking work abroad and in some cases, not returning home. 

"Each of the 11 fields mentioned by the good Minister requires specialist training that can only occur with employment in a primary centre/hospital setting, and will not produce consultants if Junior officers were to work in rural communities/tertiary centres in Primary Care."

"The majority of these doctors have no choice but to pursue posts abroad where they can get the required training and competency in their chosen area of specialization."

"These, and other factors, continue to contribute to the "brain drain" that has plagued our profession - not only are we not training the Specialists, but, for those who do go abroad to do specialist training and then return to serve our nation, we don't seem to be able to retain them in the public sector for an appreciable amount of time," he said. 

The TTMA said that close to 200 doctors lack permanent unemployment.

"The Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association (T&TMA) continues to be concerned about the lack of employment for qualified medical professionals and in particular House Officers in the public sector. We estimate that there are close to 200 of our colleagues who continue to seek permanent employment."

"For the last 3 years, the job security historically enjoyed by the medical profession is no longer guaranteed to our medical school graduants."

"A one-year internship after graduation makes a doctor legally able to practice across the Caribbean in private institutions, and on their own in a private practice."

"While their internship gives them exposure to six months of Surgery and Medicine respectively, it is the opinion of the T&TMA that there may not be enough experienced garnered in this year for junior doctors to stand on their own in private practice without the support of senior input," Dr Mootoo said. 

Dr Mootoo said having had meetings in the past with stakeholders, the association acknowledges the difficulty in postgraduate education program placement, in the absence of steady employment, creating an issue about doctors furthering the education to become specialists.

"We acknowledge the ministry's claim that specialist Consultants are needed in 11 fields of medicine. It is lamentable that we cannot produce homegrown candidates, partly as a result of lack of employment and spaces in specialist education programs, for our young doctors to train to become specialists in those fields," he said. 

Dr Mootoo added that the association is willing to work alongside all stakeholders to "highlight the root causes of this problem and find solutions to mitigate this undesirable outcome".


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