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English lessons for Cuban doctors, nurses

By CAROL MATROO Thursday, September 4 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Some of the 130 medical professionals from Cuba at the orientation session at the Radisson Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, yesterday...
Some of the 130 medical professionals from Cuba at the orientation session at the Radisson Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, yesterday...

FOR years medical professionals from Cuba have been sourced by the health sector in TT to strengthen the human resources at the nation’s health institutions. However, because of the language barrier between the two countries, it has not always been a successful exchange.

Now, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan hopes to rectify this situation by starting an English/Spanish medical programme so the 130 Cubans who would be joining the health sector this week could either learn or improve their English.

“When I sent an initial team to Cuba, what came back was not many people were chosen, as well as the complaint that English was a problem. I took it upon myself to indicate to the executive team at the ministry that English may be a problem, but we could teach English in Trinidad, especially medical English. If you are living in a Spanish country and you are speaking Spanish all the time, you’ll speak Spanish even if you know English,” Khan said as he introduced the Cubans at the Radisson Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

He said the programme would help them to develop their skills so that the doctors from Cuba who were even a bit efficient with medical English would be able to go to these classes for as long as six months, or as long as they desired, while they interacted with the people of TT.

“I don’t want to lose good doctors because of an English language (barrier). There are good doctors, nurses and pharmacists, as well as ancillary medical services who will be trained in English,” he said.

The minister said a further 170 Cuban medical staff were to be sourced to staff hospitals and expansion of new facilities which they have undertaken in the last three years.

These include the Couva Children’s Hospital that is currently being built, which Khan said would house about 180 beds, in addition to a state-of-the-art radiology unit, a burns unit and emergency units.

“The nightmare we seem to have been facing is the human resource aspect of it, the manpower needs. Not only do we have the Couva hospital being built, we have also finished and slowly populating the Chancery Lane Teaching Hospital in San Fernando where quite a few of you professionals will be going to,” he said.

He said they have started an upgrade at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex for a women’s hospital and an oncology centre. He said Cabinet had approved the Arima Hospital, which has been long in coming, and which was being expanded to house district health facilities and operating theatres.

He said there was also approval to build a diagnostic centre in Sangre Grande with an extended care unit for oncology and orthopedic patients, and also for a major Point Fortin Hospital.

“In order to service our population we believe the vision was not about hospital care, it was about primary healthcare. Primary healthcare services are about servicing patients at the ground level which I think the members of Cuba are very familiar with,” he said.

He said the group of Cubans was unique in its diversity since TT had never retained pharmacists from Cuba. He said there were also specialists from ophthalmology who would be working in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando to develop their ophthalmological services

“I was promised by some of the ophthalmologists when I was there that they could do 15 to 20 cataract surgeries a day. I challenge you to do it when you are here because you have enough (patients). We also retained a vitro-retinol surgeon because there is a dire need for such a surgery in TT.

We also have audiology doctors who would look at childhood and infant hearing problems so we are going to develop the neonatal screening programme for hearing loss in TT.

“If you do not detect hearing loss at the neonatal area within 18 months, you lose the ability to speak, to hear, to understand and in so doing we have lost a lot of our children. This will no longer be so because that programme is going to be placed in TT,” Khan said.

He said they needed more nurses, specialised nurses, general nurses and intensive care nurses as they needed to open more beds at EWMSC, SFGH and PoSGH.

“We will be looking favourably to services to increase the intensive care treatment of TT as well as training our people. You may have heard that we are facing the Chikungunya virus entry. We have close to 36 cases, which are not much compared to your population, but in this room there are specialists who will work with developing action against CHIKV, which would be the epidemiologists of your country,” he said

The minister said Port-of-Spain would soon be getting a state-of-the-art medical campus and a teaching hospital which was being negotiated at this time.

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