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For many years, African victims of the disease died in their desolate plight and very few people bothered to even lift a little finger to assist.
Now that Ebola is spreading like wild fire and is slowly closing in on the rich and powerful of the world, the disease is receiving much more deserved attention. Indeed, the spread may be a blessing in disguise, a God-sent wake up call to every one who can do anything, to at least do something.Maybe at last, through the new-found concerted effort, a cure or a vaccine against this most deadly disease will be found.
But before this even happens, the action, reaction and overreaction to stem the tide of the epidemic continue to amaze. Politicians the world over are pushing through rushed measures to, presumably, allay the fears of their people, often against the best public health advice. Public health leaders, on the other hand, are not entirely able to convince the world – especially when reality checks have proven, now beyond any doubt, that countries rich and poor are not prepared for this contagion of biblical proportion.
Even, almighty America is beginning to doubt the quality of its own preparedness. Trust in the protocols is beginnining to crumble. Paranoia is slowly creeping in.
And guess what! Today, somebody hushed in my ears, in the sidelines of a meeting, that maybe nations of the world should start to pray to help stem the epidemic!
In my view, whatever could work should be tried!
This is what everybody is doing.
A working group of senior doctors and dentists, appointed by health minister Mitcy Larue, began work today, Friday 10th October 2014, on a new regulatory framework for medical and dental practice in Seychelles.
The group is led by Dr Conrad Shamlaye , erstwhile principal secretary and special adviser in the Ministry of Health and includes representatives from the Seychelles Medical and Dental Council, the Seychelles Medical and Dental Association, the private sector and the ministry of health.
A member of the group, Dr Bernard Valentin, has said that the group has been tasked with reviewing all matters that concern medical and dental practice in Seychelles and is expected to submit a report to the health minister at the end of January 2015.
Dr Valentin added that the changing health landscape in Seychelles, with an exponential increase in private conventional and alternative health practices and the need to properly regulate that landscape, preoccupied the working group today.
Younger doctors and dentists, who have just completed or are in the midst of their internships, were also invited to contribute to the deliberations of the group.
“The Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act was last reviewed in 1994. Two minor amendments to the act have happened since then but no review as extensive and as inclusive as this one has ever been undertaken,” says Dr Valentin.
With well over 19 percent of teenagers of both sexes in Seychelles declared obese or overweight and, following the massive health promotion campaigns of the Ministry of Health since several years, it now appears that the entire population of Seychelles has finally become conscious of the need for every individual, family and community to intervene to reverse this tide.
Remarkable efforts towards this end have been undertaken recently by Miss Seychelles 2014, Camilla Estico, the Seychelles National Youth Council and the Department of Youth.
Kudos go to them!
Estico has joined forces with a local super-market, (name withheld), a local farmer, Jean Paul Geoffroy and a South African dietician, Kirchlee Naidoo to promote healthy eating within the family.
She has chosen a small group of families wherein the problem of obesity is apparent and she uses the novelty of supplying healthy foods to them, free of charge, while working with them in the background, to address the overweight issue.
The National Youth Council and the Department of Youth have launched their SEYX30 campaign aimed at encouraging young Seychellois to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day.
These efforts add to the nationwide campaign dubbed “My Health, My Responsibility” which the Ministry of Health launched in April 2014.
Seychelles has really awoken to the stark realization that if something is not done about obesity, sooner rather than later, the whole nation will live to regret the consequences.
The Seychelles Medical and Dental Council supports all the well-advised campaigns to reduce obesity in people of all ages.
The Seychelles Medical and Dental Council has counted only about five medical practitioners who have passed away in Seychelles over the past twenty years while still in active practice.
Among those devoted and self-less colleagues, one was a physician, one was a gynaecologist, one was a medical officer in the department of anaesthesia, one was a general practitioner in private practice and one was a medical officer on the paediatric ward of Seychelles Hospital.
Today, there are around 160 dentists and doctors (both foreign and local) in active practice in Seychelles – and this for a population of about 90,000 people. The register of the SMDC, on the other hand, lists close to 350 doctors and dentists but not all are in active practice in Seychelles.
While in many African countries invaluable health professionals are lost to conflict and diseases, Seychelles is an exception in that there is no conflict to rob the country of its professionals. And from the statistics referred to above, fatal illnesses affect only a relatively low percentage of medical and dental personnel.
Moreover, local doctors and dentists are relatively young. The overwhelming majority are less than 55 years old.
Photo: Gynaecologist at work in 2014
The first hospital of Seychelles was a wooden building located in the centre of Victoria (Etablissement Du Roi). It was constructed sometime in the 18th century, (after 1778) not far from what is now the old Bel Air Cemetery, up what is now called Revolution Avenue.
In the 19th Century, the Hospital moved to the location of what is now called the National House up the Mont Fleuri Road. Rumours have it that National House is haunted today because so many patients died in the area when the hospital was located there.
Seychelles Hospital is at its current location, further south along the Mont Fleuri Road (Hermitage), since the 1920’s when construction of the hospital began.
Incidentally, there is no connection between the location of the hospital at Hermitage and the name Hermitte Ward given to the female Surgical Ward.
The Minister of Health of Seychelles, in 2010, meeting with the leadership of the Chinese Hospital Ship, the Peace Ark. The Peace Ark was on a goodwill visit to Seychelles with a large number of medical personnel.
“Participation of senior Seychellois doctors and dentists in teaching and clinical research is a requirement to obtain and to hold the post of consultant,” says a leading policy adviser of the Ministry of Health.
Yet not many senior doctors and dentists have been actively involved in either of these activities in recent years.
One could easily argue that with the medical and dental landscape in Seychelles the way it is, with the absence of a robust medical and dental school and the dearth of a research culture, in addition to the heavy workload of senior doctors and dentists, it is next to impossible to demand their greater involvement in clinical research.
But is this the only view?
Whilst it is very an absolute certainty that clinical research is a heavily taxing intellectual and management endeavour, involving many people working as a team, it is equally true that the local medical and dental community must find ways to change the clinical care landscape to favour research and development in their fields.
“The adage that if you do not publish, you perish, should also be true here,” emphasizes the policy adviser.
The Chairman of the Seychelles Medical and Dental Council, Dr Bernard Valentin, will be “live” on Radyo Sesel on Wednesday 7th May in the Studio Clinic programme.
This forms part of the campaign of the Seychelles Medical and Dental Council to increase the visibility of the organization and to explain to people what exactly it does, as it celebrates its twenty years of existence.
Dr Valentin expects to talk to the media about the objects and reasons of the SMDC, focussing especially on its mandate to protect the public and the integrity of the medical and dental professions in Seychelles.
It will be the first time since many years that SMDC goes on the national media for this purpose.
The year 2014 marks twenty years of existence of the Seychelles Medical and Dental Council. Whilst the occasion will not be marked by any special celebration, it is a hugely significant milestone. After twenty years of trying to establish a footing, this year SMDC is working hard to become a present, visible and influential authority in shaping the medical and dental agenda in Seychelles.
This reinvigoration coincides with the reinvigoration of the health sector in Seychelles. Insofar as SMDC is concerned, there is a need to go back to the drawing board. A review of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act, 1994 is essential. This will take into account the changes having taken place in the health landscape in Seychelles since 1994.
And a lot has happened. The private health sector has flourished. The number of private medical and dental practices have sextupled. The number of private pharmacies has followed suit. The complementary health fields are also breaking through the ring fence. The number of people who now use private practitioners as their preferred care givers is increasing exponentially.
A good medical and dental practice guidance needs to be incorporated into the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act. Clearer procedures for dealing with violations of segments of the Act must be incorporated in the statute so that there is a more uniform standard of practice and a fairer system of sanctions that is applied across the board. Issues of advertising of medical practices need to be addressed and take into account the changes that have occurred in this domain of discourse internationally over the years.
The Seychelles Medical and Dental Council will draw lessons from best-practices achieved by other well-established councils of similar mandates from the rest of the world. With their longer history and their abundance of human resources these regulatory Councils and Boards have a long story to tell in shaping medical and dental practices. SMDC has no choice but to carefully listen to their story and evolve accordingly.
Since the beginning of this year, the Seychelles Medical and Dental Council has been discussing the pros and cons of a possible legislation that will make continuous medical and dental education (CMDE) mandatory for re-registration.
The matter was first discussed in the meeting of the Medical Education Committee at the end of January. It was again taken up in the meeting of the whole board of SMDC at the end of March 2014. Most medical and dental practitioners are in favour of such a move and have commended the Council. However, certain dissenting views have also come to the fore.
The Board of the SMDC has resolved that the matter can only be approached by a fair consideration of all views and also taking into account the specificities of Seychelles.
Hence, it is expected that very soon a committee consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Seychelles Medical and Dental Council, the Seychelles Medical and Dental Association, representatives of private practitioners and other key members of the medical and dental profession, will be constituted to discuss this issue in depth and breadth.
Whatever the outcome of this multi-stakeholder consultation, most medical and dental professionals share the view that doctors and dentists in Seychelles have no choice but to follow what their peers do in other countries. If they really have clinical care quality and patient safety at heart, they need to stretch themselves thin to keep abreast with scientific development in their fields.