Government’s decision to recruit 400 nurses from Ghana in an effort to address the island’s nursing shortage, has been attacked by Opposition senator – and nursing trade unionist – Caswell Franklyn as “rushing to decisions without adequately thinking through the process”.
Senator Franklyn, who is also the head of Unity Trade Union, one of the bargaining agents for nurses, questioned how Government could afford to employ West African recruits when, according to him, there are nurses graduating from the Barbados Community College who are unable to find work.
He also argued that the move was especially distasteful in the light of recent layoffs in the public sector as part of the requirements under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
“First we hear that the Government is not employing anybody but now we can hear that they are bringing 400 nurses from Ghana.
“We have nurses here in Barbados who can’t find work. We have nurses coming out of Community College that are looking for work but they are being told that the Government is not employing anybody.”
Franklyn suggested that Government should first work on making the nursing profession more attractive, so that higher numbers opt to stay within the system rather than seek greener pastures overseas.
Last Friday, Mottley told reporters that she has put in a request to Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo for close to 400 nurses. The Prime Minister made the announcement during a joint press conference with President Akufo-Addo at Ilaro Court, as part of the West African leader’s one-day visit to Barbados.
“We have indicated that we are searching for just under 400 nurses. So, it is not a small number and we believe that it is a wonderful opportunity for cooperation between our two countries,” said Mottley.
But Senator Franklyn declared that Government has apparently not learned from past mistakes, referring to a prior decision to augment nursing shortages with nurses from the Philippines, a project he deems a failure.
“We brought in nurses from the Philippines before and that did not work at all because you had the language barriers and other issues. Just as it was then, Government is not taking the time to properly analyse the situation.
“They are not learning from their mistakes and it is not going to work. Fix the issues you have with local nurses first before you can talk about bringing in anyone.”
Barbados TODAY contacted the head of the Barbados Nurses Association, Joannah Waterman, who promised to comment on the issue at a later date.
But Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic said there is an immediate need for nurses which could not be filled locally at the moment.
“We have an immediate need; we have issues as it pertains to the training of nurses in relation to nurses being able to successfully complete the regional exam.
“This has been a problem for the last several years and we are at the point where we are going to be able to resolve that.
“In addition, we are competing against metropolitan countries who are seeking to recruit our nurses and have been successful in doing so.”
He gave an assurance that when it comes to the recruitment of nurses, home drums will beat first.
He told Barbados TODAY: “Let me say very clearly and definitively that this is not going to be done at the expense of local nurses or persons who would have aspirations of becoming nurses,”
The Health Minister described the recruitment of Ghanaian nurses as a short-term measure while the Government fixes the issues that stand in the way of an adequate homegrown nursing compliment.