The Ministry of Health (MOH) is considering the possibility of allowing a foreign medical university to set up and operate in Vanuatu while the Government sets up its own nursing training provider.

Acting Director General (DG) of MOH, Dr Posikai Samuel Tapo, revealed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be signed this Friday to allow the Manila Times University of Philippines to offer nursing courses.

As part of the agreement, the Manila Times University will enter the country with its staff and facilitators to provide access to nursing education while the ministry will provide learning facilities, according to the Acting DG.

He said it is possible that they will be using the Vanuatu College of Nursing Education (VCNE) to run their courses. VCNE is ceasing operation for the next five academic years because it does not meet some standard requirements set by the Vanuatu Qualifications Authority (VQA).

A priority of the MOH is ensuring Vanuatu continues to produce its own nurses despite the closure of VCNE. The ministry is bringing in more Solomon Islands nurses to fill existing critical positions and also securing scholarship opportunities abroad for students who want to pursue studies in nursing.

Over 50 Vanuatu students were granted scholarships at several regional institutions like the Solomon Islands National University, Atoifi College of Nursing and Pacific Adventist University (PAU) last year. The MOH plans to secure scholarships for a similar number this year.

The Council of Ministers (COM) has agreed for the nursing training provider to be relocated to Santo. The COM has also approved a fund of roughly over VT2 billion for it and its schematic design has been approved.

While it was operating, VCNE was producing only 40 or less than 30 graduates a year. Acting DG Tapo said the initiative with Manila Times University aims to increase intakes by 500 a year.

Recruitment should commence by June this year, after an assessment to determine whether the government needs to build extra buildings, he said.

The Minister of Health, John Still Tari Qetu, said Vanuatu still needs around 400 nurses to fill gaps in health facilities across the country.

The Assistant Vice President for Student Recruitment and International Services at the Manila Times University, Annabelle Lesaca, said after an exploratory visit to Vanuatu that they want to introduce their elite medical courses like Bachelor of Science and Nursing, Bachelor of Science and Medical Technology, Bachelor of Science and Pharmacy, and even Doctor of Medicine.

Lesaca said they want to offer nursing courses because Vanuatu needs it.

She said that Philippines’ nurses and doctors are some of the best in the world, they practise medicine in a lot of countries.

“The Philippines educational system is very much focussed on the bachelor degrees. We have very good nurses and doctors. I would like Vanuatu people to try our curriculum…for students who want to pursue the elite courses, I strongly urge they do because Vanuatu needs you,” she said.

Lesaca said they have met with relevant government departments during the visit. She said once operational, it would be named the Manila Times University of Vanuatu and would be the first campus outside Philippines.