Minister of Health Renward Wells.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to strain healthcare workers, Health Minister Renward Wells said the government is hoping to hire nurses from abroad to aid in the fight.
According to the minister this is just one of three solutions the Minnis administration is working on in an effort to strengthen the country’s response against the pandemic and also, resolve nurse shortage issues.
He said while one option includes bringing in medical workers from countries like India and the Philippines, another includes speeding up the examination process for student nurses so they could be quickly introduced into the health care system.
His comments come as healthcare workers continue to struggle with exhaustion from the increasing amount of COVID cases.
“We’re looking on moving on three tracts right now in regard to nurses,” he told reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
“We have about 54 student nurses who would’ve come through the programme who need to sit the final programme. We’re seeking with the Nurses Board to be able to have them sit that exam hopefully by the end of September and that amount of nurses, whoever passes we will bring into the system.”
He added: “Then there’s the circumstance of looking at nurses abroad whether they are from India or from the Philippines or Israel. I know that there were a number of overtures that were sent out to the international community prior to COVID because there was a need for some hundred nurses prior to COVID from what I’m understanding and so we’re moving on that tract.
“And then the third tract is to look at circumstance and an immediate injection of individuals. I don’t know whether it will be Cuba because at the end of the day, there is a language issue there and we wouldn’t want to compound our problems anymore in the healthcare system other than what we already have because we are seeking to be able address the issues with COVID as best as we can.”
The decision to hire foreign nurses is not a new one for the country, the health minister maintained.
However, Mr Wells said if there are Bahamian healthcare workers abroad wishing to return home and aid the country’s efforts against COVID-19, the ministry would more than welcome them.
“We’ve done this in the past,” he said. “We’ve brought in Filipino nurses, nurses from India, we’ve brought in doctors from abroad so this is a normal course of business that The Bahamas has been doing even before we became an independent nation.
“But if we can find Bahamians who are willing to return home and help assist us in this national effort, by all means, we would welcome them.”
Mr Well also said the government plans to hire 29 junior doctors to help aid the country’s fight against the COVID-19 threat, a decision made in response to the amount of stress being put on the health professionals.
“We are hiring 29 doctors, SHOs (senior house officers). The government of The Bahamas made the decision to do that,’ he said.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a sense of fear and uncertainty among nurses.
Officials have even previously told this newspaper that workers “feel burnt out” and “discouraged from volunteering their services” due to the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recommendations presented to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis last week, seen by The Tribune, the Bahamas Nurses Union appealed for a worker’s compensation system established to ensure nurses receive the best medical care and treatment in the event of COVID-19 infection.
This system would feature medical and indemnity benefits.