A Disciplinary Committee has been set up by the Medical Council of Guyana to probe allegations of grade manipulation and other questionable acts carried out by a number of graduates of the medicine programme offered through the Guyana/Cuba scholarship programme.
The medical students under scrutiny are from among large batches of students who were trained in Cuba in recent years.
In fact, the state of affairs is one that has forced the Medical Council to even implement new measures to guard against the criminal acts.
This is according to Chief Medical Officer within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud.
According to Dr. Persaud, having detected the troubling development, the Medical Council was forced to establish the Disciplinary Committee, a measure which is stipulated under the regulation of the Medical Practitioners Act.
Once set up, the Committee must be headed by a judge. Moreover, the Committee is being led by Justice Joann Barlow at the behest of the Chief Justice, Dr. Persaud informed. “She [Justice Barlow] has been advising and conducting the hearing into these matters,” said Dr. Persaud, as he shared his suspicion that some of these very persons who are being investigated have been the agitators of an upheaval facing the Medical Council.
While there have been a number of doctors who are convinced that the operations of the Medical Council should be closely scrutinised for several reasons, Dr. Persaud said that efforts are also being made to bring the body into disrepute for carrying out its legitimate role.
The Council is a recognised regulatory body tasked with enhancing and monitoring the functioning of the medical fraternity in Guyana.
As such, Dr. Persaud who is an ex officio member by virtue of his position as CMO, said that the Council has a role to ensure that only medical graduates who complete accredited programmes are licensed to practice.
He explained for instance, “If you were trained at UG [University of Guyana] or UWI [University of the West Indies] or in most of the other commonwealth countries, you will be entitled to complete your medical training and get a degree from the university that you attended, and then you present that degree to the Medical Council and you could be issued an internship registration which you will complete.”
However, Dr. Persaud shared, “for the Cuban programme, that was not necessarily accredited by the body that accredits for Guyana.”
The medical programme in Guyana, and in a number of Caricom countries, is accredited by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions [CAAM-HP]. CAAM-HP is therefore the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community.
But since the Cuba/Guyana scholarship programme is one that was brought into being by the Guyana government [the previous administration], Dr. Persaud said, “What we have done is accept them [Cuba graduates] back because they were scholarship students who were sponsored by government.” These graduates, according to Dr. Persaud, are placed on an 18-month rotation programme and during that period they are expected to demonstrate their competences in the four main specialties and primary health care.
Once the rotations are completed, a supervising doctor is expected to grade and sign a performance booklet for each graduate, which is then submitted to the office of the CMO.
But according to Dr. Persaud, there have been a lot of issues surrounding the process.
The CMO shared his conviction that, “Some of the agitators who have been trying to raise concerns about the Medical Council are the once who fraudulently forged those documents. I can say that boldly… some of them have gone ahead and changed grades; modified them and signed for the supervising doctors. When we verify the signatures with the supervisors they say: ‘No this is not my signature’.”
“For someone who wants to be a medical practitioner, this is really low and beyond what we would accept as a minimum standard, and it is a criminal act too,” asserted Dr. Persaud.
According to the CMO, “the current Council was really tasked and pressured to deal with this matter, but I think they have tried to be guided by the law.”
Although he described the situation as “really difficult cases,” Dr. Persaud said that he has nevertheless tried on several occasions to have them resolved at the level of his office.
“I really tried desperately to resolve some of them as much as I can from here by trying to redeem the books; I tried to get their current supervisors to repeat rotations if they had not passed them properly…but they are of the opinion that we should hand them a license just like that, but I can’t hand people a license just like that to go and deal with people’s lives.”
Even as the investigation in the alleged fraudulent acts continue, Dr. Persaud said that some of the graduates are continuing their rotation, while others have their performance booklets held up at his office for a number of reasons including the absence of signatures, or evident manipulation.
“These books are issued by my office, and I always ensure I sign them before they are issued, but some of them [graduates] if they feel they got a low grade, they would throw the book away and they come with photocopied books and they fix their own grades or even pull out pages if they weren’t happy with the grades they got.”
As part of the effort to bring an end to the despicable acts, Dr. Persaud said that he has even started to initial each page of the performance booklets.
But even with calls being made for a change of the current membership of the Council, Dr. Persaud said that the issue will continue to be one that will remain on the front burner.
“A change of the Council members will not overshadow or hide issues like that…people forging documents will not be overlooked,” assured Dr. Persaud, who revealed that the previous Council was also faced with a similar challenge.
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