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Tuesday, July 25, 2006 

Ministry of Education & Youth

Senate Approves Bill to Establish Caribbean
Accreditation Authority

KINGSTON(JIS)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Minister of State in the Ministry of Education
and Youth, Senator Noel Monteith


A Bill to establish the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other health professions was approved by the Senate on July 21.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Senator Noel Monteith, who piloted the Bill, said the need for a regional accreditation body came about after the United Kingdom government confirmed its intention to abolish legislation that recognised overseas qualifications of medical practitioners, such as those within the Caribbean.

He pointed out that the removal of accreditation was seen as being critical, noting that "this, therefore, obviated the need to continue with the reviews of the previously recognised qualifications, such as that of the University of the West Indies (UWI), leaving a void of accreditation by an internationally recognised body".

Accreditation for persons training in medicine at the University College in the West Indies, which preceded the UWI was previously issued by the University of London.

However, after the UWI was granted its independence in 1962, graduates of the UWI's medical programme subsequently received automatic recognition from the General Medical Council (GMC) of Great Britain. Accreditation status from the Council allowed graduates the ability to register and practise in other British Commonwealth countries.

Accreditation by the GMC continued over the years, with the Council members visiting the UWI and the other medical schools that were subsequently established in other Caribbean territories, to examine their syllabuses, the levels of qualifications, and the support mechanisms for medicine.

Notwithstanding the discontinuation of accreditation by the GMC, Senator Monteith told the Senate that, "this move by the GMC had nothing to do with the quality of the programme offered by UWI", but was instead, a direct result of a commitment to their region within the European Union.

The State Minister pointed out that in light of this, for the UWI and other medical schools in the region to remain attractive to regional and international students, their programme offerings had to be recognised to be of international standard, at home and abroad.

He further informed that the proposal to establish a Caribbean Accreditation Authority was approved and endorsed by a number of CARICOM groups, inclusive of the Council of Human and Social Development, the Conference of the Heads of Government, and the Legal Affairs Committee in 2003.

Eight countries in the region are signatories to the agreement to establish the Authority. They are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname.

As a consequence of the Accreditation Authority, Senator Monteith said that medical accreditation programmes of medical schools in the participating CARICOM countries would be certified.

Additionally, the Authority will seek "to have mutual recognition with other established medical accreditation bodies and will be responsible for an ongoing review of the accreditation standards", he noted.

Membership of the Authority, he said, would comprise three persons nominated jointly by academic institutions in the community offering training in medicine, other than dental and veterinary medicine; one person nominated jointly by academic institutions in the community offering training in dental medicine; one person nominated jointly by academic institutions in the community offering training in veterinary medicine; two persons nominated jointly by regional organisations representing civil society; two students enrolled in training programmes in medicine at the academic institutions in the community and nominated by the institutions; two persons from outside the region who have expertise in the accreditation of training programmes in medicine or health professions; one person representing the Caribbean Association of Medical Councils; three representatives, each appointed by a contracting party selected by the Secretary General on a rotational basis; and the Executive Director, who shall be an ex-officio member.

In her contribution to the debate, Opposition Senator, Shirley Williams expressed concern on the matter of funding, and the amount of financial allocation to be made to the Accreditation Authority.

"I would like to know how we calculated the budget and what Jamaica's contribution is. Whilst we do agree with the concept and welcome the formation.we want to know what the financial input is going to be from taxpayers," Senator Williams queried.

Responding, Senator Monteith explained that there was a standard formula that was utilised by CARICOM in determining the funding that each member state contributed to the Authority. He disclosed that Jamaica's annual contribution to the Authority was US$64,052.82 per year for the first three years.

Also making their contributions to debate were Leader of Opposition Business, Senator Anthony Johnson and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Anthony Hylton.

Senator Johnson said that in seeking to establish the Authority, it was important that beyond the Caribbean, "the world believes that our Authority will be objective and independent".

He argued that there must be a system in place whereby the Authority functioned independently of the UWI.

"We have to ensure also that the relationship between this body and the other bodies is objectively stated," the Opposition Senator said.

In his address, Senator Hylton pointed out that at the recently concluded CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in St. Kitts, a decision was taken to expand the categories of persons, for which the free movement provisions of the revised Treaty of Chagauramas would apply immediately.

"While any arrangements contained in the Bill anticipate that it is the higher level of the medical profession, such as the doctors and veterinarians who will be impacted, the nurses themselves in short order will form part of this arrangement, and that I think will further facilitate the free movement of goods, persons, and services within the single market arrangements," he added.

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