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Health ministry, UTech give green light to interns

Published:Tuesday | February 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

University of Technology (UTech) environmental health students can breathe a sigh of relief as they will now be able to embark on a mandatory six-month internship programme, which The Gleaner yesterday revealed had been stalled for weeks with the institution at loggerheads with the Ministry of Health.

Following a meeting between the parties late yesterday, Professor Winston Davidson, head of the School of Public Health and Health Technology, told The Gleaner that the students would be able to start their internship programme "with immediate effect".

Said Davidson: "By tomorrow we will begin doing the proprietary things to start implementation."

He added: "It is a 27-week programme, so it will go over into August, but the students will be able to graduate as scheduled."

One of the students who was anxiously awaiting word on when she would be able to commence internship was very pleased to hear that it would be soon.

"That is such a relief. It is as a burden just lifted off my head," the student told The Gleaner.

The students, some of whom have already paid for the 14-credit internship programme, which was to have commenced on January 12, had been sitting at home anxious over whether they would get to graduate in November and acquire their certification as the ministry and UTech failed to agree on policy changes made by the former.

Major Sticking Points

The two major sticking points in the new policy had to do with the ministry's decision to no longer pay salary/stipend or any other allowance to interns and the requiring of training institutions to pay the Ministry of Health/Regional Health Authority for hosting each intern.

But following a meeting between representatives of the university and the ministry, Dr Kevin Harvey, permanent secretary in the ministry, described the situation as a "misunderstanding" as the changes in the policy did not apply to this category of students.

"The clinical training agreement does not apply to people who have finished their training and are going into internship," Harvey told The Gleaner.

"The matter has been resolved and the students will go forward and do their internship as they normally would."

The ministry will, however, only be able to pay a stipend to 32 of the 41 students set to do internship.

"Normally, we would employ a particular number, but this year it is more than we can accommodate," Harvey said. "Certainly, we would not have budgeted for 40 students, but all the students can get to do their internship. We will be able to accommodate the majority; upwards of 30."

This has left UTech with no choice but to find the $74,000 per month, per student for the remaining nine students. This money covers commutes and gown-washing allowance.