By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
NASSAU, Bahamas — Cuban-trained doctor, Dr Mandela Kerr, in a landmark case brought in the Bahamas Supreme Court against the Bahamas Medical Council (BMC), has won his bid to be recognized as a qualified doctor in The Bahamas.
This ruling now clears the way to practice locally for those doctors and medical practitioners who successfully completed their training in Cuba, many of whom have since migrated to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
As reported by the Tribune, in a written ruling, Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder found there was “no proper consideration” of Dr Mandela Kerr’s independent practice application, and that the reasons the council gave for refusing the application cannot “be sustained in law and upon the evidence.”
Justice Winder also said that he would “resist” his inclination to order Kerr to be registered by the BMC, instead deciding it would be more “prudent” for him to remit the matter to the council for a “proper consideration” of that doctor’s application.
According to the ruling, Kerr secured his medical degree on July 12, 2007, from the Higher Institute of Medical Sciences, Santiago de Cuba. In the following years, he obtained three more qualifications, namely, a grade 1 specialty in comprehensive general (family) medicine; a diploma in natural medicine; and a grade 1 specialty in dermatology.
He was also successful in the Caribbean Association of Medical Councils (CAMC) examination in October/November 2015.
He worked for the Department of Public Health (DPH) from 2016 and has worked in almost all of the government clinics in New Providence. He also successfully completed supervised rotations working in paediatrics, gynaecology, family medicine, and three months in the Princess Margaret Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department.
In January 2017, Kerr was posted by the DPH as medical district officer, the only medical doctor for the island of Andros. He was officially given responsibility for Mangrove Cay in October 2017.
At some point, Kerr, given his qualifications and experience, applied for registration and licensing as an independent medical practitioner and specialist.
However, the BMC, in a letter dated November 16, 2017, determined he was “ineligible” for registration under Section 15 of the Medical Act, 2014, to engage in independent practice.
Caribbean News Now has learned that the first scholarships provided to Bahamian students to go to Cuba to train as doctors were given back in March 2000, with 300-plus students being granted scholarships to train in Cuba, including some 115 from Grand Bahama and the remainder from Nassau and other islands.
Since the first wave of students graduated, they have had difficulties being acknowledged by the BMC as trained and qualified medical practitioners despite some having completed residencies in other, more developed countries with ease and without incident.
The matter came to a nasty head in 2016 when a group of doctors protested their treatment at the hands of public health administrators in The Bahamas, citing that Cuban doctors were being allowed carte blanche to enter The Bahamas to work in conjunction with Bahamian medical professionals in a “mentoring capacity” on the National Health Insurance programme, while Bahamian nationals with Cuban medical qualifications and credentials were being shut out of the market and employment opportunities and in some instances, having to take the further CAMC certification exams for The Bahamas at their expense in order to be recognized locally.
No further word on whether or not Kerr will formally apply for recognition to the BMC or Bahamian authorities, but it is certainly one step closer for him and his family.