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Junior doctors encouraged by on-the-job training programmes
by FRANCESCA VELLA
The country still has a brain drain among doctors, but the improved on-the-job training programmes for junior doctors are encouraging, Medical Association of Malta (MAM) president Martin Balzan told The Malta Independent.
Dr Balzan warned however, that doctors were angered at the fact that no posts have yet been created for higher specialist trainees.
The MAM president said that out of the 52 students who sat for the finals in medicine and surgery at the University of Malta, five failed, 17 (two of whom are foreigners) left the country to specialise or work abroad, and 30 stayed on.
“This means that we only lost about 30 per cent of this year’s graduates. Moreover, the best graduate, a foreigner, also stayed on. Almost all the students had applied to work abroad and had been accepted, but most of them chose to stay here.”
Dr Balzan said the medical sector in the UK has changed. He explained that right now, the chances of getting a training post to specialise in the UK are very low.
It is still relatively easy to get a job as a doctor in the UK, and more doctors had to be employed due to the Working Time Directive, said Dr Balzan, adding however, that the training programmes’ capacity was not increased at the same rate.
“It’s difficult to get a training job in the UK at the moment, especially since competition is on the increase. We cannot force doctors to stay here, but we have to make it worthwhile for them to do so,” said Dr Balzan.
He mentioned three crucial factors: a good salary and working conditions, quality training programmes, and opportunities for career progression.
Salaries and working conditions have improved, he said, and things are happening very fast with regard to the training programmes. Much more needs to be done, however, to ensure that doctors have good opportunities for career progression, said Dr Balzan.
The government cannot afford to be complacent with the situation. It has to be a matter of ongoing progress, but parliamentary secretary for health Joe Cassar is taking the bull by the horns, he said.
Speaking specifically about the post-graduate training for doctors, Dr Balzan said there are about 250 junior doctors currently receiving on-the-job training. They have a curriculum to follow and a coordinator.
The training structure has been strengthened and these doctors are specialising and receiving quality training locally.
“We send very few patients abroad for treatment, and the treatment given at Mater Dei Hospital is as good as that given in any other European hospital. It is a brain drain, not a skill drain that we have among doctors.”
The MAM president insisted that it was absolutely necessary to have the right structure, financing and the political will, to avoid further brain drain, and to continue providing quality health services.