Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands has suggested the government will not be able to support training for some 65 first year medical students enrolled at the University of the West Indies this year.
Dr Sands told reporters on Friday there was no way the government could support training for physicians at public or private facilities.
His comments came as he defended the decision to cap the number of subventions allocated to medical students at UWI, insisting the government has increased its investment in health care staff.
“This year there would have been 65 first year medical students,” he said, “there is no way that the Commonwealth of the Bahamas can support 65 physicians in training at our public or private healthcare facilities. At the same time, we’re having serious challenges providing nurses and so if we look at the investment of the Bahamian people there ought to be balance.
He continued: “That is what has happened, we have no reduction in the the investment, as a matter of fact we have increased the investment in our healthcare staff but what we have sought to do is bring balance, reason.
It was confirmed last month the government will cap subventions to medical students at the University of the West Indies to 25.
At the time, Dr Sands noted this number is the “historic norm” that has increased “outside of policy” over recent years.
He added that UWI was notified of this decision “well in advance” of this current school year yet continued to accept students “with the expectation” that the Bahamas government would pay their tuition.
Last week, Dr Sands reiterated that in the future the government will cap subventions to 25, he said it does not wish to "inconvenience" students currently matriculating at the Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados UWI campuses.
Dr Sands told reporters on Friday the decision to cap assistance at 25 students was an “issue of the glass half full, glass half empty”.
He insisted the Minnis administration’s holistic approach would bring balance to the level of government support afforded to all stakeholders in the healthcare system.
“The government of the Bahamas has made phenomenal investments in medical training over many, many years,” he said, “but we’ve recognized that the planning has been less than ideal. So that if you say that you’re going to train somebody, training doesn’t just involve medical school.
“It involves what comes after, so if you exhaust your budget on medical school then you cannot provide the training opportunities to get people over the finish line. So they can’t be certified, they cannot progress to advance the education and so many, many doctors find themselves stuck.
He continued: “In addition, if you invest only in doctors then you wind up with a problem with nurses or you don’t have enough physical therapists, or you don’t have enough occupational therapists. What we have decided to do as a government is to look holistically at the needs of the country and to balance the needs.
Dr Sands said: “We have to provide a health system which can provide for the needs of all patients, doctors alone do not provide healthcare. They require other people. So what we have decided to do is make sure anybody who we allow to get into the programme, we can guarantee they can finish.”