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Fiji School of Medicine dean questions need

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 4, 2008) - The Fiji School of Medicine is contemplating ways to address the threat posed by the Uma Nand Prasad School of Medicine at the University of Fiji towards its operations and future of medical schools in the country.

Fiji School of Medicine Dean, Professor Robert Moulds said it was absurd that a country the size of Fiji could even contemplate that it can support two viable Schools of Medicine.

[PIR editor’s note: The new medical school, named after benefactor Dr. Umanand Prasad, began operations in April at the Umanand at the Saweni Campus of The University of Fiji in Lautoka.]

Professor Moulds, speaking at the annual Fiji Medical Association Scientific Conference last night, said if the University of Fiji continued with its MBBS course, then one of two institutions will probably founder.

"In a sense, it hardly matters which one founders; it will be a terrible waste of resources whichever it is. Note that New Zealand, which has a population more than 4 times larger than that of Fiji, only has two medical schools," he said.

"I see no alternative but for us to get our heads together and try to come up with a mutually acceptable solution and this does not include mouthing platitudes that we can learn to live together."

Professor Moulds said there will be formidable academic obstacles to FSM offering places to University of Fiji students.

"But I think with suitable good will and acceptance by the University of Fiji students that at least a bridging course linked to an entrance examination might be required, I think we should be pursuing such a solution as hard as we can," he said.

"I also think the FMA might be a facilitator of this process, perhaps by acting as a neutral umpire and trying to get the two institutions to recognize that both their futures are bleak if the current situation just drifts on."

FSM has been urged to broaden its revenue base so that it is not reliant on the MBBS program to keep it financially viable.

According to Professor Moulds, there is a real dilemma in healthcare professional education in small countries, as many professional groups are only required in small numbers.

He added a training program will inevitably be non viable financially as fees will not be sufficient to pay for the fixed costs of lecturer salaries etc.

"This dilemma will always be an issue for FSM, but the Pacific island countries can undoubtedly do better in their workforce planning, and FSM must be ready to work in close liaison with them," he said.

"In the past, we have tended to the attitude that it is not our job to determine workforce numbers, and we have simply enrolled as many students as we can. This is clearly not a reasonable attitude, and we must actively contribute to human resource planning for the Pacific."

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