FINANCIAL constraints have forced the St. Helen University School of Medicine At Vieux Fort to fold its operation here, leaving its staff unpaid and other bills behind..
The learning institution was in such dire straits that it was experiencing problems paying its utility bills. At the time of its closure, last Friday, its telephone was one-way, only allowing incoming calls.
St. Helen which opened only last year, was located at Beanefield. At the time of its closure there were about 30 students on roll who hailed from Guyana, Nigeria and Saint Lucia. Its tuition fee was close to US$5,000.00 per semester. However, St. Lucians students were charged a slightly lower fee. The owner of the school resides in America.
Due to certain misunderstandings between the school and its former president and dean, they both resigned in disgust. A new president was hired a few months ago.
On Friday there was drama on the school compound when the landlady of one of the school’s professors confronted him and demanded that he pay her the rent and light bill which he owed her last month. The matter was resolved after the intervention of the police.
A staff member who witnessed the incident described it as a big embarrassment to the professor and the school.
The incident occurred just before the commencement of the university’s White Coat ceremony, where the president, Professor DaizalSamad announced that the institution school would be closing due to financial problems. The announcement changed the tone of the ceremony and left students pondering their fate as physicians in training.
The Mayor of Vieux Fort, Winall Joshua, who gave the closing remarks at the ceremony said he was forced to make some changes to the script of his intended speech to make it more “motivational”, in order to allay fears of the students that their future as doctors in training was in jeopardy.
According to a staff member there were signs that the university was experiencing financial problems, which led to a few of them ‘firing the job” early.
Last Saturday St. Helen University held a meeting with officials of Atlantic University School of Medicine in Gros Islet, to seek ways of facilitating its students who had paid for the semester. It was agreed that those students will continue the programme at Atlantic University until the semester ends, and if they are willing to continue there, they would have to make the necessary payments.
The president of the school is out of island and could not be reached for comment.
A few of the students of the defunct university have also been transferred to the International American University College of Medicine (IAU) in Vieux-Fort, which is located a few yards from St. Helen.
Commenting on the situation, the Public Relations Officer of IAU, SibiGopalakrishna, said , “We sympathize with the students. We are prepared to accept them once they meet our requirements.”
A source close to the school told this reporter ways were being explored by a few professors to find out whether the closure of the school was illegal.
Up to press time yesterday, the school’s equipment was still in the building where it once operated.
This is not the first medical school in Vieux-Fort that has closed due to financial problems. A few years ago, Destiny College of Medicine suffered the same fate, after it had already identified a location in Vieux-Fort to build its own campus.
Officials at other medical schools on the island see the experience of St. Helen University as a lesson to the government of Saint Lucia. They are now calling on the government to carefully monitor the operations of all medical schools here and not to be too hasty to offer medical schools licences to operate in St. Lucia.