Psychiatrists are not available

Stabroek News
August 15, 2001

Dear Editor,

The Stabroek News 11/08/01 carries an article [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] to the effect that the Minister of Health is proposing the appointment of a Director of Mental Health for the public sector. It went on to say that the Minister expects each hospital to have a psychiatrist.

These are laudable goals but they are being conceptualised without an awareness of our human resource limitations in that field. It is a tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

The minimum requirement for recognition as a specialist in Psychiatry is Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatry (MRCPsy.) for those trained in the United Kingdom, the FRCPsy, for those trained in Canada, the American Board in Psychiatry for those trained in the USA and the Segundo specialist qualification for those trained in Cuba, to mention four countries.

No one in the public sector satisfies any of those requirements. It is all well and good to have lofty ambitions but psychiatrists cannot be created by ministerial edict. If the Minister is genuinely interested in improving health care delivery, investments have to be made in human resources.

Successive administrations have seen no need to fill the void created by the departure of the late Dr. Damodar Chintamanie Panday, DPM, FRCPsy and Dr. Horace Taitt, DPM who formerly adorned the Psychiatric unit of the PHG.

Psychiatry is a field which requires excellent communication skills. The recruitment of psychiatrists not fluent in English is not a viable option, so the notion of seeking assistance from Cuba or China to fill the vacuum will not enhance health care delivery in this field.

The Minister must begin to understand that the unqualified should not be treated as the most qualified for appointments. Such individuals should be encouraged to obtain proper training and qualifications. This applies not only to Psychiatry but to every field of endeavour.

Mediocrity should no longer be the platinum standard to which our professionals aspire. I trust that on this occasion the Minister will be persuaded to temper his rhetoric and enthusiasm with a dose of realism.

We do not strengthen our institutions by anointing and appointing sycophants because there is something much more important at stake and that is the health of those most in need.

Yours faithfully
Walter Ramshoye