Visibly irritated about the regretful condition under which his medical students train to become doctors, the vice chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, Professor Aiah Gbakima, has said that he does not accept the institution of any teaching hospital outside the Court of the University.
Obviously referring to the travesty of the Connaught hospital in which the authorities closed down five wards including the ‘burns unit’ vital to the training of his students, Prof. Gbakima said it was not proper for the training of medical students to take place outside his purview.
He said, “this nation cannot afford to behave differently from what obtains all over the world in which the students go into a medical school supervised by a Dean of studies answerable to the VC and the court which directs convocation after the said students have gone through the necessary training needed to admit them as graduates of the university”.
Gbakima, who is a professor of microbiology, agued that if truly there was a “teaching hospital” as the name implied “where academic learning is undertaken by all medical students of the university”, it would be “under my control and not under any other non-academic control or atmosphere.”
Lamenting over the state of the Connaught hospital, which is used as the temporary teaching hospital for training of doctors in the country, the VC regretted that the authorities had not been able to put things right the way they should be in line with the contemporary world of medical academics.
“Look there is a standard of doing things all over the world but I really do not know why things are different here. The government calls that place a teaching hospital but I do not know what they mean by a teaching hospital. In other countries we look up to is normally directly under the control of the university. Right now the director of that place is somebody else who does not work here…I don’t know what they mean by a teaching hospital,” he lamented.
The VC maintained that, “academics are very principled people when it comes to training of students, doctors inclusive,” adding that if they really wanted a teaching hospital it had to be at Jui which would serve that catchments area and beyond and their students would be exposed to both the academic and medical environments needed for their training.
Professor Gbakima called on the government to correct the anomaly as soon as possible so that the sorry condition suffered by students would be corrected under the management of the university “whose sole business is to teach the students”.
He however commended the government for liaising with Iran for assistance towards building of structures, adding that the turning of the sod of the teaching hospital by the former Iranian President some years back was a sign that they meant well even though it was yet to come to fruition.
Asked whether he was ready to take over the reigns of the administration of the ailing hospital if the cabinet of President Kabbah resolved tomorrow that he moved in formally, the VC told Awoko that the University Court was quite ready to take over the control of all the arms of the poorly managed teaching hospitals in Freetown even as he was preparing to open up more outlets in the provinces for students to be exposed to all spheres of tropical medicine which would equip them to work in such places long after graduation.
“I don’t believe they can sit down in Freetown and address all the problems in medicine which is why I intend to arrange for training of our students in Serabu, Mattru, Makeni, Kamakwe, Giamanimikoro and Segbwema, would be a big exposure for the students some of whom would be very excited to go back to some of these areas to practice after graduating. We are going to place people not according to their wish. Once we arrange them and give the hospitals numbers, each student will choose an unknown place open it and what you see is where you will go.
“However, the first thing we need to address is how do we take care of the students while they are there? If they are there for three months who will give them housing? Or allowances? How do they survive? You are not just going to drop them and leave. So those are things we would be discussing with UNICEF and related agencies. So if we send you for three months we give you the requisite funds for your training for the period….The matter is when you undergo your internship you should not sleep…most of your nights should be spent in the hospital as it is done in US hospitals but we have not reached that point where the US is, so we have to plan ours gradually,” he stated
He expressed worries at the epileptic state of power utilized for the operations in which students learn from, stressing that he understood that even the generator was poorly managed.
“Hospital is not a charity business we would run it to the advantage of our students and the community if given the opportunity. I understand that there is money given for the supply of fuel to the generator for one year…..but I don’t know where that is….but if they give Connaught to us we would take it because then the medical school has a home….all the clinical departments would be there teaching them daily and at nights and the basic sciences would be at Jui,” he concluded.