Khan said the nursing shortage in the country is a serious problem and the nurses cannot be stopped from leaving.
“What we have to do is to increase their salaries, hopefully and make them more comfortable,” Khan said in response to a question on the nurse shortage at the opening of the 19th Meeting of Regional General Nursing Councils at the Kapok Hotel, St Clair. At present the country has a shortage of some 3,000 nurses.
On the other hand, president of the Nursing Council of Trinidad and Tobago, Oneilia Alexis said local nursing bodies found out some years ago during an impasse with the Government that the problem was “not really salary, but a lack of education and upward mobility.”
Alexis said, too, that Caricom also needs to rethink the issue of “managed migration” of nurses.
In using education to stem migration, Alexis said, “in TT, we have been improving our education over time. We have worked quite a while to get our nurses to the Bachelor’s of Science Degree, and to train them in other areas. (TT) has been in the forefront of this effort. ”
Caricom Ministers of Health, she said, have agreed that “the Bachelor’s of Science Degree will now be our basic entry level to the profession.”
The Bachelors and Masters programmes in nursing at the University of the West Indies, she said are now seeing an increase in applications and entries.
She welcomed the Government’s move to take legislation to Parliament to enact legislation for the Nurses Practitioners Programme. This programme will allow trained speciality nurses to administer primary health care in the absence of a medical doctor.
“That is very important for us. We have been working on that for a number of years. We are looking forward to that. It is another means of upward mobility. It will give us a broader scope of practice.”
Khan agreed different criteria and methods of training should also help to stem the exodus of locally trained nurses to North America and Europe.
He said trained speciality nurses holding Bachelor of Science degrees and Registered Nursing certification would be eligible for better salaries.
On methods of training, Khan said he is thinking of “introducing the patient care assistant system” in which the assistants going into the system and work their way up to become nurses.
On the issue of managed migration, Alexis noted that the Caricom Heads of Government had looked at it but nothing came out of it.
“Because we are losing nurses all over the Caribbean, it is something that we need to look at again,” she said.