Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s announcement that Barbados’ nursing complement would receive a boost of 400 from Ghana has garnered support from at least two local organisations.
But the administration has been warned that an increase in the number of nurses must not come at the expense of quality at Barbados’ healthcare system.
President of the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA), Joannah Waterman and NUPW Acting General Secretary, Delcia Burke took a considerably different approach to that of trade unionist, Caswell Franklyn, who questioned the level of thought put into the move.
In a Barbados TODAY interview, Franklyn queried how Government could afford to employ West African recruits when there are nurses who can’t find work after graduating from the Barbados Community College (BCC). He further described the move as ‘distasteful’ in light of Government’s recent public sector retrenchment.
To the contrary however, Delcia Burke recalled Government specifically indicating it had no intention of placing nurses, police officers or teachers on the breadline.
“Government had always said that it will not be touching nurses, policemen or teachers in the BERT programme and they always acknowledged that they needed more nurses. They said they were trying to recruit more police and nurses,” said Burke.
In addition, the BNA president declared that with a deficit of over 500 nurses, the announcement had been well received.
“…The association relishes recruitment of nurses from overseas and especially from Africa and personally I commend the Government for the collaboration with Africa, because as a citizen, I really feel strongly that as persons in the black diaspora, the only way we are going to strengthen ourselves is to unite with Africa,” said Waterman.
Government and trade unions are currently locked in a stalemate over the terms and conditions of a proposed 24-hour system, which Government intends to roll out at polyclinics across the country. However unions are demanding the adequate manpower to complement the changes.
The NUPW and BNA also shared a common perspective on the requirement that only the best healthcare professionals be brought into the country.
Waterman said: “Regardless of where the nurses come from, we have to acknowledge the role of the Nursing Council of Barbados, which is the regulatory body that must do the assessments and analysis of the training programmes and review the transcripts of these individuals to ensure that they are of the standard which we are used to here and so that our standards of nursing practice are not compromised and the public is protected.”
NUPW’s Delcia Burke went a step further, calling for the Ghanaian nurses to satisfy regional standards.
“We want to know the level of training which these Ghanaian nurses will have. As long as they are properly trained, I have no problem with it. Also, the nurses in the Caribbean have to do a regional exam and I would think that any nurses coming from Ghana should have to sit that regional exam as well or at least show that they are proficient at the regional level,” she urged.
Burke added that in the past, efforts to recruit nurses from neighbouring countries had proven an unsustainable solution.
“We would have tried to recruit regional nurses before and Barbados’ Government would have brought nurses here from St Vincent, Guyana and other Caribbean countries, they would have put in two or three years and use Barbados as a ladder to climb to the United States, Canada and England…. I have no difficulty with Government recruiting nurses from the Caribbean but we would have to put some plan in place where they would have to work for a number of years before they could leave or pay some kind of bond,” Burke suggested.