BVI News

Premier should speak full truth about hospital jobs

Dear Editor,

In a recent article in the BVI press, our premier Dr D Orlando Smith called for more local medical professionals to staff Peebles Hospital.

This seems like the boy who cried wolf. Often, politicians say things in the House of Assembly and to the media to appeal to the sensationalism of the current day blogs.

As a minister of Government – especially the premier of our territory, one is expected to be much more cautious with one’s words. With great privilege comes great responsibility, most importantly a responsibility to speak the truth.

Let’s tell the whole story – shall we, especially when one is throwing stones while standing in a glass house.

This article commented on a few issues that need to be thoroughly examined before one berates current locals holding a medical degree, who choose to work outside of Peebles hospital.

The first concern comes from the statement that the Ministry of Education has given money to train locals and “they have taken advantage of these opportunities” – per the premier. Of course they did!

For those who do choose to purse this demanding and rigorous career path, they are not “taking advantage”. Rather, they are utilizing resources available to them to make their dreams come true.

For those that go on to medical school from the British Virgin Islands, a large proportion head to University of West Indies to study, while a smaller nidus pursue studies at US and British medical schools.

Of the BVI Islanders that do complete this training successfully, there is a large proportion that do not return home for several reasons.

Money. Let’s call a spade a spade. Peebles Hospital does not provide a competitive pay scale in comparison to private practice or other hospital systems within the region.

Everybody has to eat. For example an Internist on average can gross anywhere between $118,717 – $258,569 (per American Board of Internal Medicine).

Very recently, local physicians exercised their rights and conducted a sick-out calling for a review of their salaries and compensations. A cry for help and smoke before the fire!

You call for more locals, but reward the non-belongers! Why are non local physicians with the same level of training given more money and more incentives? Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

Even with all the hurdles named above, there are local doctors who have returned and began working in Peebles Hospital, but soon left or became discouraged when they realized that they would have little to no autonomy or upward mobility in the current system.

Many young physicians come with fresh ideas and new concepts, willing to work hard and develop a better system, but meet a “sandpaper-like” resistance because “old heads” can’t step down and away. The power struggle is unparalleled and stifling for a young physician.

Lastly, the Premier stated that “we have to continue to educate as we’ve been doing and continue to encourage”. But, have you? Have you really educated and encouraged?

Per the same BVI news in February 2017, the student population at ESHS was 1313 youngsters. “186 students received Honors Awards (B Average), 287 students received High Honors (B+ average), and 24 students received CEO Awards for achieving an A average or above for the 2015-2016 academic year.”

One must ask, with all this “success” – does this translate into college readiness? And how many of those that graduate from our current educational system go onto achieve a professional degree such as a Doctorate of Medicine? The answer, not much.

We need a reality check, in comparison to other educational systems within the region, we are not competitive. We continue to award mediocrity and set the bar lower to give a false sense of confidence and accomplishment. And now we have added an additional year with no proof of academic advantage.

If the government of the British Virgin Islands seriously wants to draw local medical professionals to Peebles hospital, they have to be willing to have administrative change within the BVI health system, increased economic compensation for local physicians, and upward mobility for young local doctors.

*This letter is in response to a June 20 article in BVI Hot Press entitled “Peebles Still Needs Medical Specialists”.

Yours truly,

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