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A World Bank representative has proposed that English-speaking Caribbean countries examine their policy responses to migration of health workers, with a view to having some of the countries to which they emigrate share the cost of educating them.
The proposal was made by World Bank Sector Leader for Human Development and lead author of the World Bank’s latest report, ‘The Labour and Education Markets in the English-Speaking CARICOM: Issues and Options for Reform’, Mr. Christoph Kurowski.
He was speaking at the media launch of the report, at the World Bank’s Kingston office, Tuesday (March 2).
In the report, to be officially released Wednesday (March 3), the World Bank states that there are 7,800 nurses working throughout the region, or 1.25 nurses per 1,000 people. In addition, it says the demand for nurses currently outstrips the supply, with about 30 percent of all positions in the sector vacant, a shortfall of 3,300 nurses.

World Bank Sector Leader for Human Development and lead author of the World Bank’s latest report, ‘The Labour and Education Markets in the English-Speaking CARICOM: Issues and Options for Reform’, Christoph Kurowski (left), explains some of the findings of the report at a media launch, at the World Bank’s Kingston office, Tuesday (March 2). Seated beside him is World Bank Special Representative, Badrul Haque.

The World Bank is predicting that the number of vacancies could triple within the next 20 years, if left unchecked, further limiting the quality of and access to health services.
Mr. Kurowski, noted that one of the main causes of the shortage was migration to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
“We estimated that over the time period, 2002-2006, roughly 1,800 nurses compared to the 7,800 of the stock have left the region.The estimate based on census data from the US, Canada and the United Kingdom is that three times the number of nurses that still practise in the region is practising abroad. That means that [about] 22,000 nurses have left the region that were originally trained here,” he stated.
Mr. Kurowski declared that the costs and benefits associated with training nurses are unfairly distributed among nurses, countries of origin and countries where nurses choose to live and practise their profession. He, therefore, suggested that a way be found to balance the interests of all involved.
“This is actually a win-win situation because the training costs of nurses here in the Caribbean are significantly lower than it is in the US, UK or Canada. So, if these countries begin to invest, under current migratory patterns, in the education of nurses here there will be benefits for both the region and those countries,” he said.
It is estimated that for every nurse educated in the Caribbean who migrates, prime destination countries reap between US$3,800 and US$26,000. Mr. Kurowski, said the issue is expected to be discussed at the World Health Organization (WHO) General Assembly in May.
The World Bank undertook the study, following requests from CARICOM Ministers of Health who expressed concern about a shortage of nurses in the region. The study was done over a two-year period, focusing on Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia.