Sep 13, 2018 News
Even as the Ministry of Public Health looks to ramp-up its efforts at realising universal equitable health care, focus is being directed to medical extension officers or the level of health care workers who are called medexes.
Although over 300 of these health professionals were trained over the years, currently there are only about 86 still practicing at that level within the public health system, according to Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud. According to Dr. Persaud, a medex is a health worker who is licensed by the Guyana Medical Council to provide health care services functions as assistants to medical doctors. However, since these professionals are neither nurses nor doctors, they are not permitted to practice independently.
But Dr. Persaud asserted that these professionals, who are mandated by law to operate in the public health sector, play a particularly critical part in the provision of quality health care.
In recognising the importance of these professionals, the Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the University of Guyana [UG] recently launched a medex training programme after a few years’ hiatus. About 36 individuals will participate in the programme which will see them earning an Associate degree on completion. With this level of qualification they are expected to be plugged into the public health system by 2021.
According to UG’s Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr. Emanuel Cummings, the medex programme, dating back many years has been an affiliate programme of the national university. The programme, which falls under the ambit of the Faculty’s Department of Public Health, is listed among other health programmes the university offers through its collaboration with the Public Health Ministry. Other programmes including: optometry, medical rehabilitation, nursing and environmental health are done in collaboration with the Health Ministry.
Even as he regarded the Ministry as the university’s strongest collaborator and spoke of the continued efforts being directed to developing programmes critical to the development of health care, Dean Cummings noted the importance of the Department of Public Health.
“The Public Health Department is the largest and one of the very important departments in the Faculty of Health Sciences. In the Faculty there are the School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Medical Technology, so there are a range of programmes…we have 11 undergraduate programmes and the medex programme is part and parcel,” the Dean related.
As he considered the diversity of those participating in the recently launched medex programme, Dean Cummings noted that “this is important for a country like Guyana. One of the things accrediting bodies look at, is whether our students represent the demographic of our country because health care is about providing for all the different people.”
He therefore added, “Having students from different diversity helps to enrich the learning environment.”
The diversity notion, according to the Health Sciences Dean, was in fact the subject of a study done at the University of Toronto which was able to ascertain that students who find themselves in a learning environment with students, particularly from the hinterland, are afforded a more enriched medical education. “What happens is that persons who would have grown up in the city and find themselves in the hinterland to practice, they may not understand the culture there, but in delivering health care you need to understand the culture in which you are going to deliver that particular speciality. Having students here from different parts of the country it enriches health science education as well as the programme,” Dr. Cummings noted.
As he considered that government has been investing a great deal of money into health care, the Dean urged the medex students to “ensure you take the best of this opportunity given to you and go back and serve your communities; Guyana needs you…”
The Health Sciences Dean made this disclosure as he noted that too often the statistics show that those who benefit from training do not render the service they were trained to provide. “We want that most of you after completing your training would go back and serve the hinterland. That is the only way we can go closer towards universal health coverage and more so in Guyana, in providing equity in health care delivery in a country that is so diverse geographically,” said Dr. Cummings.
“Your skills at the end of your training is critical because it is much needed for Guyana, and so we hope and wish that you make use of this opportunity, and that you go back and provide the much needed health care.”
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