STATE-OF-THE-ART DENTAL SCHOOL COMING TO ST LUCY
By Jenique Belgrave
A US$57.1 million investment by a Canadian school will see a six-storey state-of-the-art dental school constructed on government land at Harrison Plantation, St Lucy.
Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance Dwight Sutherland disclosed in the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday that the project by Columbia International College, Canada’s largest private boarding school, is expected to begin before year-end.
Introducing a resolution to compulsorily acquire nine acres of land at Harrison Plantation for education, tourism and economic development, he said this would be added to 74 acres already owned by the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. for the construction of the dental school.
“A world-class dental school with state-of-the-art medical and dental equipment will attract many students…. Not only the state-of-the-art world-class dental school but you will have a modern and digitised dental laboratory serving this country as well as the rest of the Caribbean and the global marketplace and focusing on areas such as manufacturing and the supply of dental products,” Sutherland said.
“Industry will get a boost through the supply of dental products not only locally, but regionally and globally. We can begin to export. Barbados then becomes the hub and the centre of excellence in dentistry, dentists’ laboratory equipment and indeed supplying dental products.”
Minister Sutherland said the school will also feature an oral pathology laboratory, an oral radiology centre, and several retail facilities including a cafe, food store and pharmacy.
“It will have a six-storey student residence with several amenities such as a restaurant, laundry, gym, games room, convenience stores, and a hotel. So we are not only looking at dentistry, but we are also focusing on educational tourism, because with that dental school, the hotel will cater to the parents of the students and overseas patients and visiting faculty members who will stay there. This certainly will boost our economy,” he insisted.
Sutherland also explained that first-year international students will be required to enroll in medical courses at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.
Minister in the Ministry of Housing, Lands and Maintenance and MP for St Lucy Peter Phillips, contributing to the debate, said the project indicates that investor confidence has returned to Barbados.
“While you may start at US$50 million or US$150 million, it can go upwards as they seek to add value to the facility and to bring greater benefits for the people who will occupy the facility and also the people in the communities around the facility and in Barbados to a wider context,” he said.
The MP for the constituency where the dental school will be located assured that the project was a viable one and not “a pie-in-the-sky” idea, while pointing to the former Democratic Labour Party administration’s promised multi-million Pickering project which never got off the ground.
The school will be the island’s third offshore medical university, joining Ross University and the American University of Barbados.
Minister of Education Kay McConney said the Barbados Accreditation Council is working with medical universities already on the island and the Columbia International College to ensure that their offerings are of a high standard.
“What is important, though, is that as other dental schools and other medical facilities want to come to Barbados and, indeed the Caribbean, there are certain things that we have to ensure. We have to ensure that the reputation of these institutions is of a level that will not take the reputation of Barbados with it should there be a fallout in that situation. We have had that experience here in Barbados, and we have to be vigilant and continue to ensure that these types of facilities come here not just for economic [benefits] and to make profit in many cases as they do, but more fundamentally, that they pay attention to the educational quality so that the recognition and the reputation of the institution and indeed of this country will remain significant,” she said.