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For the final phases of her five year medical degree, University of Manchester student and Old Blue Emma Findlay, from the Class of 2012, travelled to the Caribbean islands of Barbados and Saint Lucia. Despite their close proximity and similarity in appearance, the healthcare systems that they operate are, as Emma was to find out, very different.

“After five long years studying medicine, the final part of my medical degree involved spending eight weeks studying in a hospital of my choice. I thought the Caribbean would be the perfect location to relax and unwind! I spent four weeks in Saint Lucia and a month in Barbados. I had expected these islands to be quite similar but my preconceptions were far from reality. Everything about them was different.

Saint Lucia is known for its beautiful resorts and hotels, but being part of the working community was a completely different experience. We were exposed to the crime, the poverty and general deprivation, none of which is ever seen by the typical tourist. The hospital was extremely basic, with three specific wards; a medical ward, surgical ward and a gunshot and machete wound ward. The latter was the largest and busiest in the hospital, which was somewhat shocking, as was the fact that cockroaches were running around everywhere!

In comparison, Barbados was a lot friendlier and much more touristy. The Barbados hospitals were also a lot more similar to those at home, just a bit dated!  

In both hospitals I worked on the paediatric ward looking after extremely ill babies and children. Although this was very rewarding and an amazing learning experience, it was often very sad as there were insufficient financial resources to provide the care that we experience in UK. In Saint Lucia, the parents had to pay for all of their child’s healthcare and medicines. Unfortunately, we had young children visit the hospital with very serious illnesses, but their parents simply couldn’t afford the treatment. It certainly made me realise that we take the NHS for granted, and we are extremely lucky to have free healthcare available whenever needed in the UK. I was very relieved to find out that healthcare was free for children when I arrived in Barbados. 

As well as having an incredible time working in the hospitals, I also spent a lot of time exploring both islands, getting involved with the local community, trying the local food and seeing all of the famous spots and beaches. Both countries were incredibly beautiful and scenic, and I found they were amazing places to spend 8 weeks following my final medical examinations.”

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