March 12, 2010
Nurses shortage not a true reflection

A World Bank report on the shortage of nurses across the English Speaking Caribbean did not give a true reflection of what exists in S.Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as the region.{{more}}

This is the view of St.Vincent and the Grenadines’ Chief Nursing Officer, Audrey Gilkes.

“The Regional Nursing Body that comprises of all Chief Nursing Officers in CARICOM; we had access to the report since 2009. We discussed the report that is where we identified the discrepancies and we forwarded it back to CARICOM.

“The current chairman of the Regional Nursing Body is Jamaican and she informed me that the report was presented and it did not reflect the changes nor did it answer the questions posed by the Regional Nursing Body,” said Gilkes.

The World Bank Report stated the English Speaking Caribbean is experiencing a nursing shortage of 50 per cent and St.Vincent and the Grenadines had 30 per cent vacancies.

“That was not so!” said Gilkes.

“For instance I wanted to know in St.Vincent and the Grenadines if they were referring to percentage or absolute numbers because it did not show a true picture of St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Jamaica said the same thing. All the countries in which the report was conducted said the same thing,” noted Gilkes.

The World Bank study entitled ‘The Nurse Labour and Education Markets in the English-Speaking CARICOM – Issues and Options for Reform’ was conducted in 2008.

A news release on the World Bank report dated March 3, 2010, stated that nursing shortages in the English-Speaking Caribbean hinders the region’s development.

It added that the situation limit access and quality of health services and affect the region’s competitiveness.

Gilkes noted the report did not give any definition as to who the World Bank considered to be a nurse.

She said the Regional Nursing Body desired to know whether the terminology ‘nurse’ used in the study included nursing assistants and registered nurses. This is against the backdrop that some countries in the English Speaking Caribbean call their nurses different names. For example, Jamaica calls their nursing assistants License Practical Nurses.

Currently, St.Vincent and the Grenadines has 19 vacant posts for registered nurses; 55 applications are now on file. The vacancies were created recently by the Ministry of Finance and Planning in keeping with opportunities for job creation outlined in the 2010 National Budget.

“This report doesn’t reflect what is happening, certainly in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. This report also questions schools of nursing. Even though in some parts it was correct by saying there were shortages in terms of resources of all kind, but when it refer to the quality of nursing education within CARICOM territories we found that to be very questionable and want to state it does not reflect the outcome of nursing education in CARICOM,” said Gilkes.

Gilkes, however, doesn’t totally disagree with the report.

“I agree with the report in some aspects. It made reference to the improvement in infrastructure and the need for more trained educators,” said Gilkes.

The Milton Cato Memorial Hospital has 121 staff nurses, community nursing, 50, and Mental Health Centre has 14 staff nurses. Nurses in St.Vincent and the Grenadines salaries range from (Grade H) $2300-$3500) for staff nurse.

In 2001 when the Unity Labour Party administration came to office it faced a heavy migration of nurses. To stem the situation it introduced a scholarship system which allows Vincentians to receive a free nursing education.