The Government continues to pursue strategies to attract and retain the nation’s health workers, Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has said.
He was delivering the opening presentation of the second segment of the 2010/11 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (September 21).
Mr. Spencer pointed out that, over the years, successive governments have relied on a mix of strategies, including scholarships, bonding recipients of these scholarships, improving benefits outside of basic remuneration and entering into bilateral arrangements to employ health workers to achieve this target.
He said that a 2009 World Bank study on Nurse Labour and Education Markets in English-speaking CARICOM countries showed that the annual attrition rate for regional nurses was eight per cent, mainly to Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. At the same time, one third of locally trained nurses were working in other CARICOM countries.
Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer (right), addressing journalists during the Ministry’s Post Sectoral Debate media briefing at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on Wednesday (September 22). Looking on is Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Jean Dixon.
In light of this, the government has been focusing on training health workers to enhance the local work force. Since 2004, 535 scholarships have been awarded for both short and long term training of health professionals, including pharmacists, nurses and doctors.
In addition, under a $100 million training project for Assistive Health Care workers undertaken in 2008, 30 more Pharmacy Technicians have been trained. The Ministry is also in collaboration with the University of Technology (UTech) to train 22 Pharmacy Technicians and 22 Dialysis Technicians at the Lionel Town Campus, which was opened in March.
Additionally, 60 Assistant Public Health Inspectors and 230 Community Health Aides will be trained over the next two years. The first one-year training programme for these groups is scheduled to start this year.
Jamaica and Cuba have also entered into a bilateral agreement to train health workers for the local sector and, in June, the Minister led a delegation to Cuba to recruit additional health personnel. The Ministry recruited 51 Registered Nurses for six areas, including primary health care, pediatrics, accident and emergency and operating theatre. Twenty three will be placed in primary health care settings.
Mr. Spencer also noted that 37 midwives commenced training in April to enhance the existing cadre. This is in addition to amendments being made to the Nurses and Midwives Act, to give Advanced Practice Nurses some prescriptive rights to improve access to rural patients and those who suffer from chronic illnesses.
“For the first time, we provided support through the National Health Fund (NHF) to over 70 medical students who are studying in Cuba, by way of a summer attachment programme in the public health sector,” he further informed.
This programme will assist students in their preparation for qualification examinations in Jamaica, and their ability to compete for job opportunities in the health sector on the completion of their programme of study, he said.