The warning issued by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to the Medical Sciences Campus of the University of Puerto Rico dictates that the management and professors of the nation’s major health educational institution devise a comprehensive plan to meet the standards of excellence promoted by this important accrediting entity.
Middle States announced that the Medical Sciences campus received a warning because it did not provide sufficient evidence that it complied with Standard VI for Organizational Planning, Resources and Improvement. In addition, it did not comply with the affiliation requirement 11, which obliges academic institutions to document their financial resources, and to explain the source of their funding, as well as their financial development plans. Thus, it is about reasonable demands for transparency, accountability and better management.
The university authorities have attributed these problems primarily to the $17 million budget cut ordered by the Financial Supervisory Board for this year. On the other hand, the foundation will receive $10 million before the end of the academic year, from a special fund appointed by Governor Pedro Pierluisi.
At a time when the entire country must make adjustments to direct economic recovery and mitigate the effects of inflation, budget cuts can no longer be an argument to justify administrative inefficiency. Evidence for this is that the reality of austerity that the Medical Sciences campus faces is being shared by the rest of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) campuses, without doing so putting their accreditation at risk of losing.
The situation in the medical sciences above all points to a systemic problem associated with a politicized culture that has hired and dismissed employees without considering this to mean a loss of internal knowledge that ensures business continuity.
University President Ilca Ríos Reyes, who has been in office since December, confirms that she is reorganizing administrative offices due to accountants leaving due to resignations and retirements. The official explained that she “attempts to appoint people as professional as possible, without taking into account other criteria that are sometimes used to set appointments.” Nothing less was expected of such a crucial operation. Recruiting the best talent on the basis of their merits, specifically, should be the only consideration and common practice in all public organisations.
It is of paramount importance for the country that the campus of medical sciences overcome its shortcomings to run the institution with the allocated funds and to search for alternative sources of funding, like the rest of the UPR units. In the short term, it should be an incentive for students that the academic part meet established standards.
The accreditation of all the programs of this specialized campus must be protected with an administrative zeal that seriously corrects the shortcomings pointed out by the middle nations. This included questioning the interest of the UPR management leadership in maintaining campus accreditation after setbacks at a board meeting with a team from the resident agency last November.
The island is already facing the blow of losing its neurosurgery program accreditation, so it will now be necessary to wait a decade before graduating new neurosurgeons, specialists essential to serving the medical center’s serviced population. This loss is another sign of the urgent need to maintain sound operational practices and comply with the rigor that these academic programs require.
The Medical Sciences Campus is one of the pillars of Puerto Rico’s public health structure. For decades, the good performance of its graduates has been essential in meeting the needs of the population. In addition, his research makes first-class contributions in various scientific fields. Therefore, strengthening the enterprise is an essential task for the social and economic development and well-being of our country.
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