University’s Medical Professor talks about accreditation and brain drain

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Aiono Dr. Alec Ekeroma.

Aiono Dr. Alec Ekeroma. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

The brain drain across to Pacific Rim countries with the promotion of offshore employment continues to be a major issue.

It is one of the reasons why the medical school at the National University of Samoa do not want to go for accreditation at this time. 

This is according to the Medical School’s new Foundation Professor, Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, he said that eventually they would go down that path of accreditation.

“With the brain drain – we just need to train more (doctors),” he said. 

“Our duty as a university is to train our doctors. The thing is, what we’re aiming for is to have the medical school accredited. 

“I understand that the Council here has decided they don’t want to go for accreditation straight away because they want our doctors to stay back here and work in Samoa – otherwise we will lose our doctors by our qualifications being recognized overseas.”

The accreditation process usually takes up to two years.

And Aiono says that they also need to work to improve the quality of their medical school for them to be recognized and have a qualification with a much wider appeal.

“The accreditation process, as long as we have the right resources coming at us of course it should take us a year or two years. 

“It’s a lot of form filling and standards we need to meet and as long as we have the right resources and number of teachers we can do it. 

“However there comes a time whereby we will improve the quality of our medical programme to such an extent that it would be recognized overseas. 

“Recognition is really by medical school, the world Health Organisation has already registered the medical school of Samoa so its there already.

Aiono pointed out that while students are required to sit entrance exams in New Zealand and Australia in order to practice, at least within the Pacific region, our medical school qualifications are recognized. 

“For the Pacific themselves, they can come from the Solomon Islands and Tonga to train here and then go back to their countries and they will be recognized. 

“However if you’re asking about how our qualifications stack up against Australia and New Zealand – those countries have got their own regulations and so most of the doctors trained in the developing countries are all required to sit the entrance exams in New Zealand and Australia in order to practice. 

“As you probably know, I was trained in Papua New Guinea, I was a scholarship student from here and then I sat exams to get into New Zealand and so it is all possible. “

Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma is also opening up a medical health specialist center in Motootua. 

It is almost near completion with the official opening expected to be next month.  

The center will have specialist doctors as well as general practitioners. 

A special feature of the medical health specialist center is that it will have an accommodation component to it with an attached motel.

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