People who need ear, nose and throat surgery have to wait over a year because there is a critical shortage of specialists in that field, Minister of Science, Technology & Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim has revealed. But there is hope around the corner, he announced at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing. Cabinet yesterday approved an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) postgraduate programme in a bid to address the severe shortage in the health sector, the minister said. “There is a long waiting list. “For every 50,000 people with ENT diseases, there is only one specialist in T&T.
“There are eight ENT surgeons in the public health sector and two in private practice. “There should be 26 ENT specialists in the country,” he said. For those who may wish to go overseas for surgery, the situation in the United States and the United Kingdom is not much better. Karim said there is one ENT surgeon for every 35,000 people in the US and one for every 46,000 in the UK. He said the ENT postgraduate programme will start in September this year with the enrolment of six students. It will run for eight years, with three students in each year after. It will take about one and a half years for each student to graduate and enter the public health system, the minister said. “We want to reduce the waiting time,” he said, noting that the Health Ministry is also supporting the ENT programme. “We see this as an important step in satisfying the needs in the health sector.”
The courses will be taught at the Faculty of Medical Science at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and will cost the Government $30,000 per student through the Government Assisted Tertiary Education programme. Students, who may comprise existing medical personnel interested in expanding their portfolios, will also get practical training at the San Fernando and Port-of-Spain hospitals, Karim said. He pointed out that there was also a shortage of neurosurgeons and said he expected to get Cabinet approval for his ministry to tackle this problem, too. The new ENT graduates, because their education will be government-assisted, will be obligated to work on contract in the public health sector, Karim said.