The worrying problem of nurses migrating by the hundreds each year for better opportunities is "not something that can be stopped", says the Opposition Spokesman on Health and Wellness, Dr Morais Guy.
According to Guy, migration is in their DNA.
“We need to come to terms with this and put policies and programmes (in place) to resolve this phenomenon in a win-win situation,” said Guy.
He made the comments recently during his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.
“I think it is time that we as legislators and constituency representatives recognise that no matter what systems we put in place our people will always want to migrate,” Guy added.
The St Mary Central Member of Parliament noted that historically, Jamaicans have always gone in search of better opportunities.
“Jamaicans have gone to Cuba; a wave of workers went to Panama to build the Panama Canal; some went to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Many have migrated to the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada in more recent times. Jamaicans are everywhere,” Guy stated.
“The world has recognised that we have become a country where training and qualification of professionals have become the way of life, and therefore the Government needs to capitalise on this propensity of all people by making investments in training and development at this level.
“In looking at this, we cannot confine our thinking to just the effect of migrating nurses will have on the health sector, but it has to be looked at in the overall impact it will have on the economy and the development of Jamaica,” he added.
Yet, Guy acknowledged that the high rate of attrition of nurses from local hospitals as a result of recruitment from abroad has left the operations of these facilities in serious jeopardy.
The opposition spokesman reminded that, in his sectoral presentation last year, he recommended that the government attract and retain more nurses in the system by offering scholarships, paying the yearly cost, and assuming the responsibility for the student loans and bonding them.
“The nurses we are losing have taken loans and the onerous repayment burden has caused them to look elsewhere. It is not beyond us to find a solution to this problem affecting our health care system for many years,” he said.
He said he was in support of the decision by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to increase the number of permanent nursing posts in the service but said more such posts should be created.
“We are again calling on the minister to ensure that employment is provided for graduate doctors from the medical schools and (for him to) provide incentives to those required to work in deep rural communities and an additional incentive for postgraduate training. In some way, this will attract them to fill posts at those health centres,” Guy recommended.