An extra 100 to 120 registered nurses will be needed to adequately cover the recent expansion in public health care services, the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) has estimated.
And the nursing body is preparing to formally ask the Mia Mottley administration to raise the ceiling set in law on the quota of hires of registered nurses.
The numbers in a 2012 document which projected an increase of 89 registered nurses over the period 2013-2018 can no longer hold, said BNA president Joannah Waterman.
The request for more nurses is among outstanding matters spilling over from the previous administration which the BNA intends to put to the new Minister of Health and Wellness Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, she said.
Bostic has invited them to a meeting to discuss the ministry’s proposal for a 12-hour work shift, she added.
“One of the priority matters on the table [with the previous minister in April 2017] is that of a proposal for expanding the Establishment Order . . . the [statutory] quota of nurses . . . that has not been adjusted since I believe, the 1970s,” she said.
The reasoning behind the need for more nurses is contained in the 2012 document entitled Strategic Plans for Nursing Personnel, the nurses’ spokeswoman said.
“In that document is all the evidence for why the Establishment Order needs to be expanded in order to increase the number of nursing personnel.
“It refers to the expanded departments such as those within the polyclinic where we have had increases for primary care nurses in the areas of ophthalmology, in the areas of nephrology, [and] in the area of dermatology,” Waterman told the news conference.
Among services that have been added to the nurses roster in recent years have been an increase in HIV/AIDS monitoring, the decentralisation of HIV services and the opening of the David Thompson Health and Social Services Complex in St John.
While these additional services have placed a greater demand on the nurses for the delivery of care, the number of staff has not increased, Waterman said.
An expansion in services at the main Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has also not kept pace with the personnel required, she added.
She argued that additional facilities such as the Lions Eye Care Centre, the cardiovascular services, the medical intensive care unit and the surgical intensive care unit need additional staff and posts to be created in order to enhance the delivery of care. She said the projection was for mainly senior-level health sisters, staff nurses, and 11 nursing assistants.
Specialists who were needed at the Psychiatric Hospital were being transferred from the wards of the QEH, thereby leaving a void, said BNA Vice president Heather Deane.
“In the Psychiatric Hospital there is now a recreational therapist and she has been drawn from the nursing staff. The EEG specialist…there was also the opening of the Quarterway House and the person heading that is also a member drawn from the nursing staff. The Community Mental Health nurses have also been increased.
“I think there are now about 16, previously there were about six, and they too have been drawn from the nursing complement of the hospital. There is now a quality assurance officer acting, again a nurse from the nursing complement and an infection control officer. All these were previously allocated to work on the wards,” Deane revealed.
Apart from an influx of nurses from the Caribbean and in particular St Vincent and the Grenadines, there has been no mass exodus of nurses as obtained during the 1990s, the nursing leadership indicated.
Under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and as a boost to the integration movement, some local nurses have been transferred to other regional states. She noted that while nurses had worked here from various other countries outside of the region, including Africa, they were only temporary. (EJ)