112 specialist nurses coming from Cuba next month
One hundred and twelve nurses from Cuba, including 47 who specialise in critical care, are to arrive in Jamaica in February to ease the shortage of specialist nurses here.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Winston De La Haye yesterday disclosed that the nurses are coming as part of an agreement between Kingston and Havana.
De La Haye’s revelation came a day after University Hospital of West Indies (UHWI) Chairman James Moss-Solomon disclosed that the hospital was forced to cancel major surgeries due to a shortage of specialist nurses and Intensive Care Unit beds.
The shortage, he said, was being fuelled by the poaching of specialist nurses by foreign companies, despite the hospital doubling the numbers of nurses being trained in specialised disciplines.
"We have doubled training of specialist nurses in 2016, and before the courses are completed, 50 per cent of them are already employed. It doesn’t matter how many millions of dollars we care to put on a bonding system, USA, Canada, and UK to a lesser extent, are quite happy to pay it off," he said.
Moss-Solomon said to address the shortage the hospital is actively pursuing nurses from Cuba and India, and by mid-February it is expected to have 25 specialist nurses.
In the meantime, chief nursing officer of Jamaica Marva Lawson-Byfield said that the issue is a longstanding problem because of the quality of training offered, but the ministry has implemented a number of measures to deal with the problem.
"Let me assure you that this has not taken us by surprise. This has been happening over the years; the nurses graduate, they get some skills, and they go, but it’s a little different as they are being recruited very aggressively. But when you get a Jamaican-trained nurse it is a well-rounded nurse, so we understand why they are going after our nurses," she said.
In light of the problem, she said there has been an increase in the number of specialist nurses at the Jamaica School of Nurse Anaesthesia.
"We normally take between 16 and 18, but in 2014/2015 we took 32, in 2015/2016 we took 33, coupled with the University of Technology (UTech) that is also training in this area. So right now we have 60 people who are being trained in critical care, 33 at the Jamaica School of Nursing, and 27 at UTech," she said.
"We have increased the number of persons that we have training in the areas of specialisation. In addition, we have a bilateral arrangement with Cuba; every year we recruit nurses from Cuba," she said noting that the team recruited 117 nurses last year and that 10 have already arrived, but the bulk of the nurses are to arrive in the island this year.
Further to that, she said the health minister has had discussions with Canada, China and England with a view to getting assistance with training in those countries, as there are not adequate clinical spaces in Jamaica.