As Barbados continues to battle a shortage of nurses due mainly to poachers from overseas, officials here are embarking on a new plan to ramp up numbers.
And Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic is hoping that the new measures, which could include the establishment of a nursing school, would result in the island producing nurses in every specialized field, while satisfying local and international needs.
“Barbados is not immune to the global shortage of nurses. It is a challenge that we have been facing for quite some time. There are some areas that we have to resolve, and some of them we have already started to, and we have to think beyond 2019,” said Bostic, as he singled out the recent establishment of a 24-hour polyclinic.
“We have a nursing shortage, and yes, we know that there are persons from metropolitan countries that have been in the region, and certainly on our shores, soliciting the professional services of nurses. And I do not think we should continue to see that as a challenge, but from here on to see it as an opportunity, an opportunity to supply the demand that is required,” he said.
Bostic was addressing technocrats, officials in the profession and representatives of tertiary learning institutions at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Monday, ahead of a two-day deliberation session where officials were expected to discuss the implementation of a specialist nurse register and the establishment of a school of nursing here as well as training for specialist posts.
They are to also discuss matters relating to the creation of more opportunities for nurses in Barbados and the enhancement of nursing skills in an effort to respond to the needs of the health system.
Describing the meeting as one of the most anticipated by him for the year so far, Bostic, who is to be presented with a detailed report at the end, said the outcomes would be critical to the continued development of the health sector. He insisted that the anticipated action plan must be geared toward “satisfying demand”.
“We also need to recognize as a country that if we are going to take the provision of health care services beyond the reaches of our shores, we must prepare ourselves to be able to be participants and not recipients or observers in the process,” he said.
The meeting comes just over a month after Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that she would be seeking to source close to 400 nurses from Ghana to help satisfy the local shortage.
While acknowledging that Government did not have all the resources necessary to do everything it needed to help the sector, the Health Minister said he was confident there was the political, administrative and technical expertise.
And insisting that the time for talking was over, he challenged the gathering of private and public sector officials to put talk into action, while reminding them that a part of Government’s plan was to make the island a hub for medical and dental education and a centre of excellence for the delivery of health care.
“We must reach a point where we have specialist nurses in all areas of specialty that can be utilized here on island and that can be exported in terms of their services and skill. That is the vision that we have and we need to realize. We cannot allow a situation to occur where we are left behind,” Bostic insisted.
He also challenged officials to come up with ways to address issues relating to the failure rate of nurses in the Caribbean in the regional examination.
The meeting is being attended by officials from Ross University and its parent company ADTALEM, representatives from the University of the West Indies, Barbados Community College, and authorities from the Ministries of education and health and some related departments.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness June Chandler said she believed greater focus on the training of specialized nurses could help in the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Barbados and the region.
“To ensure that our health care system is capable of effectively treating those afflicted with NCDs, greater emphasis must be placed on promoting wellness and well-being instead of solely fighting sickness,” said Chandler, who added that it was time to “create this shift in a system that is exclusively based on treatment to one that is geared toward prevention”.