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Minister: Schols in forensics soon

Friday, January 24, 2014

Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan says she intends to introduce scholarships for forensic pathology as the Government moves to tackle the current shortage of specialised physicians within the public healthcare system. She said so while addressing the T&T Medical Association’s (TTMA) installation of its new executive at Soong’s Great Wall, San Fernando, recently. At the function senior doctors—Sandeep Kumar and Prof Samuel Ramsewak—were awarded the TTMA’s scroll of honour for their outstanding contribution to local medicine. Seepersad-Bachan said her ministry, in partnership with the Health Ministry, would offer several new scholarships for specialised medical fields where there were critical shortages.


At present, the only qualified forensic pathologist was Dr Valery Alexandrov. Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, speaking with reporters at Parliament, said the shortage of forensic pathologists was so severe he was considering whether practical experience over a certain number of years could be used to confer specialist degrees. Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim also recently announced that a masters degree in forensic pathology was being developed. Seepersad-Bachan said Government was looking at introducing scholarships to assist doctors seeking to enter specialised fields, including cardiac surgery, neurology, all oncology specialties and forensic pathology. Seepersad-Bachan said doctors have been lamenting there was a lack of opportunities for post-graduate programme locally. She said the Health Ministry was addressing that through the development of post-graduate programmes through the University of the West Indies (UWI) and collaboration with the Royal Society of Medicine and other specialised medical societies. “What we want to achieve is a system that will enable doctors to work here in T&T in the public service and yet be able to achieve internationally accredited certification,” she said.

She added that the Government was considering the introduction of “performance-based remuneration packages for all medical practitioners in the public sector.” Newly-installed president of the T&T Medical Association, Dr Liane Conyette, in her address at the dinner, also focused on education. She stressed the need for doctors to practise “evidence-based medicine” and modernise their skills by keeping abreast of medical advancements. She said the TTMA had successfully increased the number of Continued Medical Education (CME) programmes by 50 per cent over the last three years. The CMEs, she said, were done by partnering with local associations, such as the ENT Society and the Diabetic Association, as well as Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and are accredited by the American Academy of Continued Medical education. She lamented that the programmes were still not attracting maximum attendance. She added: “We still have not been able to make CMEs mandatory in T&T as it is in developed countries.” She said the challenge this year for the TTMA “is to engage doctors, so they realise it is important to become modernised with recent advancements and research findings. “The clinicians must then be able to contextualise the best available research evidence and integrate it in their practice. We must practise evidence-based medicine.” Conyette said the TTMA also hoped to have a national meeting centred on medical ethics—a collaboration between doctors and legal advisers—convened this year.  


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