THE TT Medical Association (TTMA) has expressed concern about the lack of employment for qualified medical professionals, and in particular house officers in the public sector. The TTMA estimates there are close to 200 house doctors who continue to seek permanent employment.
In a statement on Friday, the association said job security was no longer guaranteed to medical graduands. There were concerns by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh that specialist doctors were not easily sourced. To this end, the ministry has decided to send a team to Cuba to source specialist doctors to fill the need of doctors here.
The TTMA said a one-year internship after graduation made a doctor legally able to practice across the Caribbean in private institutions, and on their own in a private practice.
While their internship gave them exposure to six months of surgery and medicine respectively, it was the opinion of the TTMA that there may not be enough experience garnered in this year for junior doctors to stand on their own in private practice without the support of senior input.
The TTMA acknowledged that there was difficulty in postgraduate education programme placement which created an issue for interns to specialise.
“We acknowledge the ministry’s claim that specialist consultants are needed in 11 fields of medicine. It is lamentable that we cannot produce home-grown 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,” said TTMA acting public relations officer Dr Colin Mootoo.
Deyalsingh said there were 11 categories where specialists were needed. He also disclosed that interns did not want to work in rural areas which was part of the problem in specialisation.
However, Mootoo said specialist training could only only occur with employment in a primary centre/hospital setting, and would 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 specialisation. 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,” the TTMA said.