WORK in the public health system and give back to your country. Or repay all of your tax payer-funded tuition fees.
This was the clear ultimatum given yesterday to house doctors by Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh as he spoke on the issue of an acute shortage of specialist health workers at the post Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.
Deyalsingh said Cabinet has issued a directive which he intends to enforce and house doctors will no longer have any excuse, as government through the Health Ministry will be providing jobs for them.
Deyalsingh said he is no longer prepared to accept doctors refusing employment and government will call in their loans if they do not accept the state-employment.
“I was directed by the Cabinet today that house officers will now be offered employment in the public health system and where they choose not to take up these offers, we will call in their GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses) loans and they will be asked to pay back the taxpayer all the monies that the taxpayer paid for them to study medicine.
“We as a government have a duty to provide care for people when coming to public institutions.”
He said the directive would also apply to future house doctors leaving university.
Speaking on Cabinet’s decision to appoint Cuban specialist doctors, Deyalsingh said it was necessary to fill important gaps in the Ministry’s operations by this recruitment drive and defended the decision, saying there is a severe shortage of doctors in various fields.
He said in light of this, it is necessary for all medical officials including house doctors to lend their support and work with the ministry. Newsday spoke to former health minister Dr Fuad Khan, who said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure employment for graduates within two years of their leaving university.
Khan questioned whether students who have been a part of the workforce for more than two years can be held to this decision. “The agreement is that when someone is taking the GATE loan, the State will find a job for them. If the State doesn’t find a job for you within two years, then that agreement is unfulfilled.
“I hope the minister would have looked at the agreement between the doctors and the GATE department before making those utterances.
“It all depends on what the agreement was they signed, if the applicant signed no document for placement after they have qualified, the health ministry would have no
locus standi for directing them,” Khan, the San Juan/Barataria MP said.
Newsday reached dean of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Faculty of Medicine Prof Terence Seemungal who asked to be contacted via e-mail. However, up to press time, Prof Seemungal had not responded to our questions which were emailed to him.