By Emmanuel Joseph
The Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) is deeply concerned about the rate at which local nurses are leaving the island to take up jobs overseas.
While unable to provide official statistics, BNA president Dr Fay Parris said she was certain the numbers were “too large”.
Dr Parris said although nurse migration is a global phenomenon, a small island such as Barbados can ill-afford to lose its experienced healthcare service providers in any large numbers.
“It is a global phenomenon in terms of the shortage of staff in the larger countries, so they, therefore, have been recruiting from the smaller countries. I just returned from the ICN [International Council of Nurses] conference in Montreal, Canada, and that took up a great time of our discussion. We are trying to find some ways to replenish the smaller states, as well as to minimise the large pull,” she told Barbados TODAY on Wednesday.
“I know persons would always want to go overseas but it is the extent, the large numbers at one time, that is causing us distress. It is of concern. Large numbers have migrated and there are some that are still migrating.
“We are replenishing but migration would take the experienced persons. And when we replenish, we replenish with young graduates. So, therefore, there is that gap. We are also looking for ways to help bridge the gap. So the Barbados Nurses Association is developing mentorship programmes so that we can pair the young ones with the older ones that remain to kind of give them an experience jump so we can fill that gap that would be missing,” Dr Parris revealed.
She said the association was working on initiatives that include the Barbados Community College (BCC) producing graduates to fill the vacancies.
“And I guess the rest would be up to the powers that be to help to replenish the numbers,” the BNA head added.
According to her, the average number of nursing graduates produced by BCC per year was 70, “and I have a rate for migration, but it is not quotable”.
She also weighed in on the current debate about the long wait time for patients in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), saying there is always room for improvement.
Dr Parris acknowledged that depending on what a patient requires, being attended to in A&E could take as long as two days.
“There are procedures that you have to go through, tests that you have to do for them to make sure they would have covered everything. Sometimes you have to test and treat, and then re-test; they have to do X-rays and different procedures…so sometimes it takes longer,” Dr Parris contended.
“But to justify two days would be on a person-by-person basis, and there is always room for improving or streamlining the care to minimise the wait time…and that’s in any department.”
Dr Parris urged Barbadians with non-emergency cases to use the two 24-hour polyclinics – Winston Scott at Ladymeade, St Michael and the David Thompson Health and Social Services Complex in St John – as much as possible to help reduce the wait time in A&E.
“Persons need to make sure that when they go to the Accident & Emergency that it is a true emergency…not a cold or a normal headache, but like a heart attack or a gunshot wound,” she advised.