The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not obligated to provide internships for persons who graduate with degrees in medicine, but must complete an internship before they can practice on their own.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made the observation, on Monday, as he responded to a question about five Vincentians who have completed medical programmes in Cuba but have been waiting for years to secure an internship.
“In no country in the Caribbean can the state provide the assurance that every person who graduates in medicine will get an internship, because that’s a position which is a paid position and which has to be budgeted for,” Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, told a press conference.
“However, having said that, we must always make a very special effort, the state that is, to ensure that those whom we have sent away to study in medicine that we provide internship for them,” he added.
Reports are that the government has added some nine new internship positions since 2004, but these are not enough to accommodate the nation’s graduates in medicine.
Gonsalves said some students get internship at other places, adding that a student who studies as the University of the West Indies in Jamaica might get an internship at a state scholarship.
“Different persons, they apply different places, but, clearly, the state should make an especial effort,” said Gonsalves, who told the media that he was not aware of the situation until it was reported in the media.
“So, I’m awaiting a report and on Wednesday I will ask [Minister of Health] Luke [Browne] — or if I get the chance before…
“But it is an important question and I’d like to find out, for instance, when did the students apply.”
The prime minister said he would urge students to apply for internships a good distance before they graduate.
“If you know you are going to graduate, say, in July 2016, I would expect that sometime before July 2016 you would indicate that you are graduating and tentatively you can apply for a position.”
He said a discussion could then take place in the Ministry of Health regarding how many additional positions it would ask the Ministry of Finance for.
“I would hope that we can get them sorted out, but I wanted, first and foremost, to make the general declaratory statement that there is not an obligation on the part of any government to provide the internship, but that we must make a very special effort that they be give that opportunity to have internships,” Gonsalves said.
“It’s painful, clearly, for students to study for all these years and don’t then have somewhere where they can do their internship in order to move forward with their profession,” he said.