JMDA: Aspiring doctors thinking twice about pursuing medicine locally
Following last week’s protest action by several of Jamaica’s junior doctors, which all but crippled health services across the island for a day, Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) president, Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, said some prospective doctors are having second thoughts about pursuing medicine locally.
“We have been getting reports that there are persons who are very concerned about whether it makes sense to study medicine here because it seems as though the Government does not really have many availabilities when it comes to hiring past a certain point,” Fitz-Henley told The Gleaner yesterday.
“Those persons have been wondering if they should just go away [migrate] from now or if they should start doing their exams for the United States as soon as they begin medical school.”
Last Thursday, junior doctors across the island called in sick in protest over, among other things, the non-renewal of the contracts of 147 doctors. The strike action left several medical students unable to complete their training for that day, with some voicing disillusionment with the situation.
The dissenting doctors returned to work the following day after discussions with Ministry of Health officials, and 36 of the doctors who were facing unemployment have since been offered work contracts.
But Fitz-Henley said that such a phenomenon is nothing new as her predecessors in the JMDA presidency chair also unsuccessfully advocated for the issue to be addressed.
“If we go back in the history of the JMDA with previous presidents, we see that this has been an issue for a number of years. Past president Dr Dane Miller had repeatedly asked for numbers and statistics regarding what would happen when medical schools started increasing their numbers and what would happen for the future doctors, and he was told not to worry about it,” said Fitz-Henley.
“Another past president, Dr Al (Alfred) Dawes, went to meetings for a year with other stakeholders when they were doing the needs analysis at the time, and the Ministry of Health still has not shared the numbers in terms of that analysis. What we want is a solution so that each and every year we are not put in the same position, and truthfully, I cannot think of any reason why we would want to be here again.”
LIMIT FOR ACCEPTANCE
Hours after the junior doctors’ protest action, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie told a Zoom press conference that there was a limit for acceptance of prospective doctors in the mandatory internship period before their registration.
“The internship programme is part of the training programme for the graduates of medical schools … [and] it is after the internship period that persons are registered fully as doctors. As the University of the West Indies puts out more and more graduates, and we have graduates from other medical schools both in-country and outside the country that apply to do internship within our hospitals, there is a limit to the number of persons we can take for internship, but persons are expected to complete their internship to get full registration,” said Bisasor-McKenzie.