Over 100 doctors, 200 nurses coming

Cuban medical personnel to ease burden in Jamaica's primary health care system

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 23, 2019

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JAMAICA'S health care system will benefit from the injection of more than 100 doctors and well over 200 nurses — all coming from Cuba.

The Jamaica Observer was informed last week that a 12-member team of Jamaican Ministry of Health and Wellness personnel went to Cuba between June 5 and 14 to recruit the Cubans in order to fill a major shortage of health care personnel here, specifically for doctors, nurses and technicians, including imaging technologists.

Interviews were all done in English and held in the socialist country's capital city of Havana, with candidates drawn from all parts of the north Caribbean island for the exercise. Overall, 253 nurses, 193 doctors and 46 technicians were interviewed. The Health and Wellness Ministry has since confirmed that it will process 212 nurses, 108 doctors, and 24 technicians. A further 30 doctors will be given lessons in English to see whether or not they will also be processed. Nine technicians will also do additional English lessons to see if they qualify.

The latest importation of Cuban medical personnel will mark the largest number of medical recruits at any one time in Jamaica's history.

A majority of the doctors, all specialists, will serve mainly in the primary health care sector (health centres) of the health ministry. The decision to emphasise primary care in the latest initiative is to allow people living in communities to receive maximum attention from health centres in their locations, and to take some amount of pressure off the hospitals, the outpatients departments of which are crowded every day.

Over 80 per cent of the recruited doctors are vastly experienced, having been on international medical missions, including postings in Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa and the Caribbean, the Sunday Observer understands.

The nurses, the Sunday Observer has learned, will be placed at hospitals, although some will operate from health centres.

There are already hundreds of Cuban medical workers in Jamaica, serving the public and private health care sectors.

Cuban authorities have stipulated that all its students who pursue medicine at its universities must do courses in English language, so those coming have at least a basic command of the language.

Official confirmation came from Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Chris Tufton that the ministry had recruited the Cubans, who are due to start practising here soon, as long as the requisite documentation regarding their employment status is cleared.

“The ministry's delegation came back last week and they told me that they did a number of interviews. What I will say is that I support the recruitment wholeheartedly, because we have a major issue with shortages, particularly of nurses, because of mass recruitment, particularly critical care nurses,” Dr Tufton said.

“We have had a long tradition of recruiting, particularly from Cuba. In fact, there are about 300 Cuban health care professionals in Jamaica now and they are all over the place, doctors and nurses, primarily nurses, so the new ones that are coming in are welcome. It's part of an ongoing bilateral arrangement that we have had.

“The Cubans are usually oriented quickly. They have to have some understanding of English and they have proven to be an important and valuable part of the network of professionals,” the minister told the Sunday Observer.

The Jamaican delegation was led by the health ministry's senior director of Human Resources Management Administration Gail Hudson, and included consultant surgeon Dr Ray Fraser, head of surgery at the Annotto Bay Hospital, who is one of the pioneer Jamaican medical students of Cuba's medical scholarship programme.

Another member of the delegation told the Sunday Observer that the Cuban medical personnel, which include husband and wife teams, were keen on working in Jamaica, with many mentioning Usain Bolt's name during the interviews.

Bolt, the golbal athletics icon, retired from competition almost two years ago, after dominating the 100 and 200 metres events at the Olympic Games and World Athletic Championships for a decade.


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