The NRH will hold a ceremony today to mark the graduation of 26 new doctors who will finish their clinical internship by the end of 2017, and begin work as registrars.
19 of the group began their journey to become doctors in 2008, when they went to Cuba to study medicine for seven years.
Since arriving home in 2014, they have spent a further three years – including a bridging year – as interns, increasing their knowledge and learning clinical skills to meet the particular health needs of the Solomon Islands.
The other seven graduates studied in Fiji, and began their internship at the NRH in 2015.
All medical graduates, whether trained in the Pacific Region or outside it (except University of PNG graduates), are required to do an intern training programme in the Solomon Islands before they are fully registered by the Solomon Islands Medical & Dental Board to practice medicine in Solomon Islands.
All interns undertook a 14-week rotation each in surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics & gynaecology, and paediatrics, while they learnt the required skills and professional practices.
Shorter rotations were spent in orthopaedics, anaesthetics, ophthalmology, medical imaging, emergency medicine as well as a placement in a rural or regional healthcare facility.
With these skills, the new registrars are set to begin their careers working as medical officers in provincial hospitals and health clinics, or to undertake further study to become consultants in specialist areas, such as paediatrics or surgery.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NRH, Dr Steve Aumanu, said, “The large numbers of trainees has placed significant pressure on the National Referral Hospital, mainly through the limited number of supervisors available to support the interns. However, the variety and number of patients makes the NRH an ideal training facility for junior doctors.
“I would also like to thank Australian Volunteers International, Fiji National University and the Republic of China for the support they have provided in the areas of technical assistance, course design and supervision.
“These have proved invaluable in developing the Intern Training Programme. With this support, the NRH stands prepared now and into the future to provide quality training facilities for future Solomon Island doctors.”
The Chair of the Medical Training Committee, Dr Aaron Oritaimae, said, “The Internship Training Program continues to create many challenges, but also windows of opportunities for the development of human resources in the health sector.
“The road map for health sector reform is clear: the emphasis is on quality of medical care, efficient and effective service delivery close to where people live.
“Despite high numbers of medical graduates returning to the Solomons over the next five years, we are confident that we will continue to meet the registration requirement of the Board, for medical officers, and expand the program to include other health professionals, to improve and maintain the standards of medical care in the Solomon Islands.
“Over the next five years, we expect to train at least 118 new medical graduates, returning from Cuba, Fiji and Taiwan, who will add to the medical workforce in Solomon Islands. Informed by the requirements of the role delineation policy, we are optimistic that we can meet the demand for medical officers in most area health centres and general hospitals, including the National Referral Hospital, by the year 2022.
“Achieving this concept needs to be guided by reform, appropriate policy instruments and enhanced collaboration with Ministry of Public Services , Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, MDPAC, MID, provincial governments, and development partners.
“The call now is for these supporting ministries enhance their collaboration, to ensure that quality health services are located where people live, employing the strategy of zonal dominance as the key approach.
“For instance, if this approach were applied to the requirements for Honiara City with a population of 80,000 in 2020 – just over two years away – it would require a minimum of 9 full-time medical officers. Currently there are only 3 medical officers.”
AVI Senior Paediatric Registrar Dr Rami Subhi, said: “Some of you have paved the way, and trained in countries and medical schools new to the Solomon Islands. You have taken it upon yourselves to push through misunderstandings and misrepresentations to become the wonderful doctors that you are. For that, we should all be eternally grateful to you.”