By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter
Nearly two years after a World Bank report named The Bahamas among a group of Caribbean countries that suffers from a nursing deficiency, Health Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis acknowledged that the problem still persists and will likely do so for years to come.
In fact, the problem has existed for so long that hospitals and clinics in The Bahamas have become accustomed to working with a shortage of nurses.
“We are going to be plagued with that problem for a long time. That’s not going to be solved by this government and that’s not going to be solved by the next,” Dr. Minnis told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
“There’s a shortage not only in The Bahamas. It’s a shortage throughout the world. By the year 2015 the United States will be short by 250,000 nurses.”
He said this will place added stress on Caribbean countries as well as many other countries across the globe.
According to the study, 'The Nurse Labor and Education Markets in the English-speaking CARICOM - Issues and Options for Reform', the region is facing a rapidly growing shortage of nurses as demand for quality health care increases due to an aging population, and high numbers of nurses emigrate, drawn by higher paying jobs in Canada, the UK and the USA.
Dr. Minnis said the problem is expected to get even worse in the coming years as Bahamian nurses will likely migrate to the United States where nursing jobs are readily available.
Pointing to the severity of The Bahamas' shortage, Dr. Minnis said The Bahamas has 26 nurses to every 10,000 people, while countries like the United States have 100 nurses per 10,000 people.
“We are short; that’s why we continue to address the issue by having students train through The College of The Bahamas. In addition to paying for their education, the government gives them a monthly salary. So we are doing all we can,” Dr. Minnis added.
The World Bank said in the coming years, demand for nurses in the English-speaking Caribbean will increase due to the health needs of the aging population.
To meet the demand for nurses in the English-speaking Caribbean, the report suggests Caribbean countries increase training capacity; manage migration; strengthen data quality and availability and adopt a regional approach.
But Dr. Minnis said there is not much more the government can do.
“Like physicians, with nursing there are a lot of new specialities and therefore as they arise you will continue to have shortages because they will move into the various specialties, which means that you may have deficiencies with the generalists and the specialty nurses.”Jan 25, 2012