COOK ISLANDS LEADER ORDERS REVIEW OF MEDICAL SCHOOL

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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 2) – Cook Islands Prime minister Jim Marurai has ordered an independent review of the South Pacific School of Medicine currently operating from the Rakahanga hostel in Ngatipa.

This was confirmed by former Prime Minister Dr. Robert Woonton who has been tasked with putting together the paper for Marurai.

Woonton said he met the PM along with the medical school's lawyer Norman George to discuss the issue.

"We had a meeting with the PM on the issue at his office and I am currently putting together a draft. I will confirm a time to meet the PM again once my report is finalized," he said.

No time frame has been given for the report but it's understood that a couple of other medical doctors have also been asked to provide independent opinions on the medical school.

The independent opinion papers are all the PM will need to make a decision on whether or not the school will be recognized by the government, a requirement by the World Health Organization.

The school is the dream of its American founder Dr. Larry Sands who also set up a medical school simultaneously in Mexico, which the Mexican government has finally approved.

According to Sands, apart from providing a medical training institution, he hopes that graduates will reach out and provide their expertise to the needy in countries where no one dares to go to.

There has been some controversy about the medical school but it seems the PM is determined to address the issues.

Health minister Dr. Terepai Maoate could not be reached for comment since he is still overseas. A committee was set up by his ministry chaired by the outgoing solicitor general Janet Maki to put together a similar report for the minister.

The report has since been given to Maoate.

The school currently pays rent to the Rakahanga hostel committee and the hostel is used as a "mini-campus" for at least eight students. Apart from the accommodation at the hostel, the students buy and cook their own food from local supermarkets.

A further 10 students are expected in the new year.

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