'Not enough space' for medical school at Mater Dei - 23/4/2005

link to The Times article

'Not enough space' for medical school at Mater Dei
Cynthia Busuttil

Mater Dei: Inadequate planning for the medical school. Photo: Alfred Giglio.

The Faculty of Medicine is very concerned about the plan to physically and administratively embed the Medical School within the Mater Dei Hospital, senior lecturer Josanne Vassallo has written in the latest issue of the Malta Medical Journal.

Dr Vassallo said a number of medical schools in other countries have been designed on a model which embeds the school within the framework of the hospital. However, she said, the model proposed here "is lacking in planning, foresight and vision".

"There would not be enough space for us to function as we are, let alone expand," Dr Vassallo said when contacted yesterday.

In her article she explains that the area which is proposed to house the school would not even accommodate the current school at St Luke's, let alone allow room for expansion with the aim of improving service provision, teaching and research.

She told The Times that the space currently allotted to the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry and the Institute of Health Care exceeds that at Mater Dei but difficulties were still sometimes encountered in the scheduling of lectures, tutorials and other activities.

"The housing envisaged at present suggests that it would not be possible to run certain hands-on courses which require tightly coordinated, intensive, small-group teaching such as clinical skills and the cardiopulmonary resuscitation course which are now mandatory for both final-year medical students and senior house officer training," the article says.

It adds that although the international trend to move from didactic teaching to practical orientation was laudable, it would be severely hampered locally because the availability of lecture halls, auditoria and tutorial rooms would be administratively within the remit of the hospital service providers to apportion as they deem fit between the hospital's administrative services, the two faculties and the institute.

Dr Vassallo stressed the importance for space, especially since there were a number of hands-on activities that students needed to attend.

Moreover the number of students enrolling in medical courses was increasing annually, which might lead to an even more serious problem in a few years' time.

On the other hand, Dr Vassallo told The Times that it was important to have the medical school situated close to the teaching hospital both because most lecturers and tutors also worked at the hospital and also because the students needed to have easy access to the hospital to go for clinical teaching. She said having the two in separate sites could cause a logistical problem.

"We are all very keen on having a state-of-the-art hospital, but human resources are essential, and if you do not have appropriately trained staff it would be very difficult to man the hospital," she said.

In addition to teaching at undergraduate level, there is also a need to train young doctors in different specialties in order to provide quality in health services. Furthermore, participation in research programmes is crucial at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, Dr Vassallo said.

"A teaching hospital that is a centre of excellence goes beyond bricks, mortar and equipment. An effective patient-oriented service, education at every level and to all healthcare professionals, and a well-funded research programme are the hallmarks of all teaching hospitals that are centres of excellence," the article states.

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