In 2016, the Barbados and Chinese government signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the assignment of Chinese doctors to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The purpose of the agreement is to help with undermanned departments, enhance the skills of doctors as well as reduce the backlog of patients. In turn, Barbadian doctors travel to China to learn new skills and techniques.
Every year since the commencement of the exchange, teams of Chinese doctors ranging in specialities have worked at the QEH with the current group being the fourth team.
CHINESE DOCTORS IN BARBADOS
Sometimes we venture from our homes for a fun getaway, to study abroad or just to experience what the world has to offer. But these eight Chinese doctors ventured approximately 9,438 miles from Chongqing to share their skills and help enhance the Barbadian health system.
Although this is the fourth team of doctors to come since the beginning of this medical exchange in 2016, this is the first time in Barbados for this group.
Since arriving on the island in September 2019, this team of doctors has been stationed at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and will be here for one year. Their specialities include; cardiology, nephrology, acupuncture, orthopedics, anesthesiology, an operating room nurse and a neonatal nurse.
After meeting the requirements and before coming to the island, they lived and trained together for three months. The most important requirement for acceptance into the programme is proficiency in their speciality; then they should be proficient in English and not older than 50 years of age.
Because China and Barbados have various cultural differences, the doctors have experienced a bit of a culture shock during the first few months.
“One thing was the language. First it was difficult for us to communicate very well with the patients and work mates in the QEH because our English is limited. But after four months the language problem got better because we got used to the speed and accent,” Dr. Wei Ke, the team captain, an anesthesiologist, said.
He further explained that even though four of the doctors had travelled abroad before, this is the first time they have all worked abroad which is a whole different experience for them.
“Another problem is the work habits are a little different between the two countries. Sometimes they use medicine here that we have never heard of, so we had to get use to the treatment and methods. The doctors here in Barbados are responsible for everything so the ability of the doctors here is very high I think. But in China, they have divided the specialities so everyone is responsible for just a small part. So doctors are limited to their own area,” he added.
The doctors also agreed that it is easier to work with the doctors in QEH who had studied in China, since they were more familiar with the Chinese habits.
Adjusting to the different health systems was one of the biggest challenges, they said.
“Take the hospital as a bus station. In Barbados, every bus that stops at the bus station we say to the patient, now we only have 30 seats so we can only treat 30 patients. But in China things are different because Chinese are always moving fast, so what we do is try to shorten the hospital time and try to treat as many patients as possible,” he said.
As the doctors became more accustomed to their new working environment and conquered the challenges, it became easier to share their methods and experiences with their Barbadian colleagues, as well as to communicate with their patients.
Dr Feng Peng Jia, the cardiologist on the team, was happy to share one of his most memorable cases so far. A 45-year-old tourist was admitted to QEH with a severe heart attack. They knew his condition was very serious as his blood pressure was low and he had severe chest pains. Dr Feng Peng Jia did an urgent percutaneous coronary Intervention, which is placing a small structure called a stent to open up blood vessels to the heart. As he described the procedure, he pulled out his phone and showed x-ray images of the blockage, which was massive. However, the surgery was successful and the patient’s pain was relieved. The patient was so thankful, he took a happy selfie with the doctor.
Another case that was deemed special was Dr Qiao Xiulan’s 14- year-old patient who had facial paralysis.
She used her speciality of acupuncture therapy to treat the condition and showed images of the progression on her phone.
As she scrolled through the pictures you could see that after each round of therapy the distorted face was slowly forming back into its normal state. To show how successful the treatment was, she showed pictures of the patient taking goofy selfies with her afterwards.
During this exchange, the doctors also get to interact with the medical students, giving lectures and sharing their practices with them. Dr Shui Wei, who specializes in orthopedics, said there are plans to have an exchange of medical students from The University of the West Indies to China for about three or four weeks.
He says the purpose of these exchanges is to share experiences and to enhance the relationship between the two countries via the health system.
The student exchange was scheduled to begin in April 2020 but due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been postponed.
Dr Wei Ke has praised the medical education system in Barbados and the team of doctors agrees that the quality of medical students in Barbados is a little higher than in China. He explained that the biggest reason for this is because most of the brightest students here are willing to be medical doctors after they graduate, but the brightest students in China always choose careers such as finance, economics and IT.
“I think the medical students work hard for their job. They are proud of their specialities. I have asked if being a medical doctor makes their family and friends proud of them. Things are different in China because being a medical doctor is not the best choice for high school students to choose after they have graduated, because it’s so busy and because of other problems,” he explained.
He added that things are better now in China and more students are willing to become a medical doctor than before. When asked what were his reasons for becoming a doctor he said that his mother was also a doctor and she always taught him that being a doctor was a very good profession which helped people.
`When the doctors aren’t at the hospital, you can find some of them taking walks through their Chinese community which is beautifully tucked away on Maxwell Main Road in Christ Church. As their residence is quite close to the sea, some also spend their time swimming.
Other than the nice weather, their favourite part about the island is the West Coast and they have toured the entire island twice. Although they love the island they do miss their homes and families. Thankfully, some of their families were able to visit for about three weeks recently, but have returned home. Thanks to the powers of WhatsApp/wechat, they communicate regularly with them which eases some of the loneliness.
When asked if they would recommend this programme to other doctors at home, they all agreed they would and would like the programme renewed, after the fifth team comes to the island later this year.