Students from the United States (US) and the wider Caribbean may soon flock to Antigua & Barbuda if a proposal to establish a joint Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – Cuba medical school on the island ever comes to fruition.
While he admitted that the plan was, for the moment “an agreement in principle” among the OECS ministers of health, the Director General of the OECS Dr Didacus Jules spoke optimistically of the proposal at the Antigua & Barbuda Employer’s Federation (ABEF) Breakfast Forum yesterday.
“The OECS health ministers have agreed in principle to establish a joint offshore medical school with Cuba to serve the hemisphere and tap the lucrative market for medical training,” Dr Jules said noting that there was a “huge opportunity”.
According to Dr Jules, Cuba “has accumulated an immense knowledge base in the treatment of a variety of diseases” and has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as being “a world medical power” making it a worthy competitor in the market of providing medical training.
The director general noted that past statistics showed that there was niche market for medical training among US citizens of which some institutions in the Caribbean had long taken advantage.
“The market for medical training in the US was growing by US $4 billion a year. And the largest providers – there are 1986 figures – of offshore medial services to the US was St Georges University in Grenada followed by Ross University in Dominica.
“So just in the area of producing qualified medical personnel these universities…were niche global players,” he said.
At the same time, Dr Jules lamented the speed with which policies of engagement with Cuba have been adopted within the OECS and their member states.
He said, “So the question to [the ministers] was why you haven’t all thought of setting up a medical school?”
While he acknowledged that the Cuban government has “never been interested in medicine as a capitalist venture” the potential benefits of such co-operation were still growing and Cuban society was changing.
More in today’s Daily Observer.