Gordon Watson, a consultant surgeon at WRH and regional director of cancer services with the South Eastern Health Board, said the hospital could develop new undergraduate programmes for many disciplines, including obstetrics/gynaecology, ophthalmology and Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT).
A Fellow of the Royal College Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI), Mr Watson noted that WRH is already a RCSI teaching hospital with ambitions to expand its undergraduate training programme. With planning permission already in place at the WRH site in Ardkeen for additional teaching facilities and student residences, Mr Watson suggested that the hospital’s research links with the Institute could be developed further in a new direction.
Speaking specifically about medical education, Mr Watson stressed the importance of trainee doctors continuing to work within the bounds of their competencies and under strict supervision. Medical education should, he said, only be delivered at designated centres with assigned consultants in supervisory roles.
Mr Watson also sought a radical review of how entry to professional courses for medics is governed, advocating an initial 80:20 mix of school-leaver/graduate entry as sought by Professor William Hall of UCC.
Responding to Mr Watson’s remarks, Professor Kieran R Byrne, director of Waterford Institute of Technology said that with 700-800 extra consultants generally accepted as being required in the health service in the years ahead and a 15-year lead time for consultants to be fully trained, capacity issues need to be addressed.
“Left unchecked, there is no question but that we will be headed towards critical shortages of key personnel in our hospitals and across other areas of the health service. We need fresh thinking on how medical education is delivered in this country with a view to improving outcomes. The mix of entrants to professional courses is currently very narrow with no avenues open for fast-tracked graduate entry.
“The Waterford Institute is committed to playing a lead role in the current debate on access routes to medical education and we are actively seeking a progressive and purposeful role in this sector as we build on existing strong competencies in the health and life sciences area,” he said.