THE MINISTRY of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health and Medical Services have agreed to extend the timeframe of the scholarship programme with Cuba.
This was despite debate in the media that doctors trained in Cuba are not performing well in the clinical areas compared to doctors trained in regional universities in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
Legal Advisor, Miriam Lidimani, revealed this when she appeared before the Education and Human Resources Committee in Parliament on Thursday.
The Committee was inquiry into the training of medical practitioners for Solomon Islands.
Mrs Lidimani said this was agreed in the new Memorandum of Understanding between the two ministries on Wednesday.
She said Ministry of Health and Medical Services had agreed to expand the areas of the cooperation by tapping into new areas beside medicine.
“One of the areas Ministry of Health prefers is national disaster and risk management,” she said.
Mrs Lidimani said it has taken two years of discussion to come up with the MOU.
She said when the programme started in 2007, it was not foreseen what will happen in future, which resulted in a lot of gaps being identified.
Furthermore, Mrs Lidimani said Cuba is a country that is advanced in technology despite its status as a third world country.
She said Solomon Islands is not the only one that sent students to study in Cuba but other developing countries as well.
“Through our bilateral discussion with other developing countries, it was proven their students who studied in Cuba have performed well.
“Our challenge in Solomon Islands is to distinguish between Public Health and clinical health,” he said.
Mrs Lidimani said those trained in Cuba should involve in public health, however, when they came back, all of them ended up at National Referral Hospital.
“This is one of the issues Ministry of Health has realized and created a mechanism where when the doctors come to Honiara and after they go to rural areas,” she said.
Moreover, Mrs Lidimani said Cuba has offered the scholarships free and only expect support from Solomon Islands in the United Nation and other international meetings.
She said Solomon Islands has nothing to offer to Cuba in exchange for the free scholarships.
As such, she said Solomon Islands should make use of the opportunity rather than leaving it.
In terms of language barrier, Mrs Lidimani said it is not an issue because Solomon Islands students who studied in Taiwan, China or even Japan have to learn their languages as well.
Therefore, she said it will be a bonus for Solomon Islands students to learn different languages beside English.
Relations between Solomon Islands and the Republic of Cuba have only a short history.
The two countries moved to establish relations from the 2000s, and particularly from 2007, within the context of Cuba’s growing interest in the Pacific Islands region.
Like other countries in Oceania, Solomon Islands is a beneficiary of Cuban medical aid; bilateral relations between Havana and Honiara must be viewed within the scope of Cuba’s regional policy in Oceania.
Solomon Islands started sending 50 students to study medicine in 2007 and the number has increased to more than 100 to date.
By EDDIE OSIFELO