x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Medical board for specialist training

The Minister of Health has ordered the formation of a national medical board to encourage Emirati doctors to pursue specialisations in their field.

DUBAI // A national medical board will be formed to monitor and aid Emirati doctors moving into specialist fields.

A higher scientific committee, composed of members from medical colleges and health authorities, has been tasked with setting up the standards and requirements for the board.

"The focus of the medical board will be to train Emirati medical graduates to international standards," said Dr Mohamed Yousif Hasan Baniyas, the vice provost for medical science and dean of the College of Medicine and Health Science at UAE University.

"The reason is that we need to have sustainable health care so that those graduates can qualify to become specialists and consultants in the future.

"In the past, many medical graduates that did not train or specialise continued to work as juniors. Some graduates went on gain their Arab board certification, while others went abroad to specialise, but those opportunities can be limited."

Dr Baniyas said Emiratis who had graduated from an accredited medical school and wanted to undertake specialist training would be able to apply for residency programmes at selected hospitals, which would have to be approved by the board.

"The hospitals that will take in trainee physicians or resident physicians have to fulfil certain criteria," he said.

"They have to offer a diversity of services, a good diagnostics lab and clinical services, and they need to be able to allocate the time to teach through practice."

The medical board will study which specialisations are most needed and based on that, graduates will be able to apply for placements at hospitals.

They will sit an entrance exam and be continuously assessed and evaluated throughout their internship by senior practitioners before taking an exit exam.

"We expect trainee physicians to do a minimum of three to five years depending on their area of speciality," Dr Baniyas said. "The medical board will provide guidance to the hospitals in terms of establishing those programmes.

"This will also be of benefit to hospitals since they will be able to train young people who can become permanent doctors and the future of their hospital."

Dr Baniyas said the board would also look at cross-accreditation with other medical boards for Emirati doctors.

A doctor accredited by the medical board might also be accredited by the Arab Board of Health Specialisation.

"Medical graduates who do not train get stuck as dependent junior physicians and that is demotivating for them," he said. "The aim will be to provide opportunities for Emirati trainees to one day become independent practitioners, specialists and consultants."

The founding committee has been told to complete its work within six months.

Residents welcomed the establishment of a medical board, saying it was likely to increase their faith in the local health sector.

"This will definitely increase our trust in medical practitioners because we will know that they have gone through rigorous training," said Modher Al Ani, 28, an Iraqi engineer.

Ibtisam Hassan, 60, from the Palestinian Territories, said: "For a doctor to qualify it is not simply ink on paper. They have to be tested in practical ways under the guidance of more experienced professionals.

"Doctors have to continuously be tested so that after many years of training they have the ability to prescribe medications that do not have adverse side-effects on patients."

Another resident, Walid Wahab, 28, from Syria, said people would be less likely to return to their home countries for treatment if they know strong residency programmes were in place here.

"We often seek doctors back home based on the reputation that they have developed, so this is definitely a welcome move," Mr Wahab said.

balqabbani@thenational.ae