Barbadian doctors who receive their medical training in Cuba must be prepared to sit the Caribbean Association of Medical Councils (CAMC) examination to practise locally, Independent Senator Professor Sir Henry Fraser insisted today.
Amid public calls for clarity on the treatment of the Cuban-trained doctors, Sir Henry, a former Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, attempted to explain the issue during debate on the Caribbean Accreditation Authority Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (Incorporation) Bill, 2016 in the Upper House.
Sir Henry said the challenges would be best resolved if Cuban authorities worked with the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP).
He noted that while Cuba has an outstanding record in public health care, some aspects of its medical training were found wanting.
“Cuba’s great reputation for medical training lies in its excellent public health programme and not in the clinical skills with which the students graduate. There are so many students being trained in Cuba and so many nurses, and the health system is so well provided for in so many areas that their students graduated apparently without the ability to set up an intravenous line or to take a blood sample or to do other clinical procedures our students are all taught to do during the medical course and which practising doctors in Barbados must be able to do,” he told fellow senators.
The retired doctor insisted that the medical faculty at the UWI had developed its training programme to the highest standards and “to be oriented towards the society of Barbados, towards the diseases that are particularly prevalent in Barbados and towards issues that are both medical, social and financial”.
Sir Henry said Cuban graduates who took the examinations in Jamaica had relatively low pass rates when compared to international students and the entry requirement for Cuban medical schools were below the standard requirement for students entering the UWI medical faculty.
“Some students went with CXC [Caribbean Examination Council] results, some students went with A Levels that were not scientific. So you could imagine the challenge these students had studying in Cuba without adequate preparation and background in science subjects.”
The Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies also expressed concern that students who had to spend a year learning Spanish were sent to country hospitals in the eastern end of the island instead of the more established facilities in the capital, Havana.
“When we interviewed the students, Barbadians and Jamaicans who were studying in Cuba, they all said there was a big difference in the standard of teaching facilities and accommodation . . . that most of them were constantly applying for transfers in Havana,” he said.
He further argued it was “particularly disadvantaging to send Barbadians to Cuba for a programme that would take seven years” instead of the five years spent studying here.
“The simple fact is unless the medical universities in Cuba subject their performance to the CAAM-HP, graduates will continue to have to take the CAMC exams, “ Sir Henry said.