Tuesday 31 March, 2020

Ministry of Health addresses nurses fleeing St Lucia for opportunity

Felix St Hill

Felix St Hill

The Ministry of Health is considering sponsoring nurses to become midwives as their attrition rate, especially specialized nurses like midwives, has finally become too great for the ministry to ignore.

Felix St. Hill, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, put the situation squarely in the spotlight yesterday but the migration of Saint Lucian's nurses to other countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Cayman Islands, USA and UK for better opportunities has been a well-known fact for years.

The situation seems to have worsened in recent times, forcing the Ministry of Health to make a public statement on the issue.

Although unsubstantiated, recent reports on social media of the poor treatment of nurses, vis a vis what they have to put up at health facilities across the country, particularly at the century-plus-old Victoria Hospital, seems to have spurred government to finally address the issue.

St. Hill has admitted to an increasing rate of nurses’ resignation over the past few months stating that “almost on a weekly basis we are faced with the resignation of a number of nurses.”

“What is sad about that is that our more experienced nurses have opted to take the offer of employment in the developed countries,” St. Hill said.

The migration of nurses, especially experienced ones, has put pressure on all sections of the country’s primary and secondary health care. There have also been rumours that the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is under severe pressure from a lack of nurses.

St. Hill admitted in part to the above saying there are nurses in ICU but that unit faces pressure just as other with sections of the health care system.

However, there seems to be a silver lining to all of this, one that St. Hill was quick to grasp on to. According to him, the country has nurses who are unemployed to fill in the gaps left by those who migrated, especially those who are Cuban trained and jobless. The Permanent Secretary’s only dismay seems to be with the lack of midwives.

“The other problem we are facing in the health sector is the issue of midwives. At present we have a dearth of midwives in Saint Lucia,” St. Hill said, adding that the midwifery programme at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College does not pull in a sufficient number of student nurses to fill the positions left by the migrating midwives in the various communities and health facilities in the country.

“In the future, we need to set up a programme to assist nurses in becoming midwives by sponsoring them to take up the midwifery programme at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College,” St. Hill said.

Meanwhile, the situation with nurses in the country has become a hot social media topic with several Facebook posts lambasting St. Hill for seemingly recognizing the nurses’ migration problem too late.

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