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Tuesday 10 February 2015 | Published in Regional


THE PACIFIC – Pacific countries say their Cuban-trained doctors are struggling to practise medicine in English because their training was conducted in Spanish.

The long-running Cuban programme of sending doctors to developing countries, and inviting medical students to train in Havana, has been described as Cuba’s most important export commodity.

Cuba has provided medical training to students from Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu since 2006 as part of its programme of medical internationalism.

But Tuvalu’s education department training officer Atabi Ewekia said the government found doctors trained in Cuba lacked practical and communication skills when they returned.

“They found out, especially with the filling of prescriptions, some of the important parts like the frequency of the medicine, they are not detailed,” he said.

“Also, with the practical side - in terms of putting in the IV to patients – they are not familiar with that.”

Ewekia said Solomon Islands and Kiribati had also reported problems with the Cuban training.

He said Kiribati has established a two-year special internship programme, designed to fill the skills gap, and eight doctors training in Cuba would be sent there later this year.

“We have seen the effectiveness of the programme that they are now doing in Kiribati,” he said.

“The main purpose of this programme is to make these doctors safe doctors to practise in the hospitals.”

The Tuvalu government is re-evaluating its participation in the Cuban programme, which has trained 22 students from the country since 2008.

Ewekia said the need for additional training, and the number of doctors trained already, meant it might no longer be needed.

“At the moment, we already have a lot of doctors – and next year I don’t think we’ll be sending doctors to Cuba,” he said.

“We appreciate the effort that the Cuban government has done to our people.

“I think when these doctors are fully trained, and they come back, they’ll do a good job in Tuvalu.”