Thu | Mar 21, 2019

Nurses walk! - 10 resign from KPH effective month end with more to go

Published:Friday | January 6, 2017 | 12:33 AMEdmond Campbell and Jodi-Ann Gilpin
Two nurses head down Princess Street outside the Kingston Public Hospital in Kingston after work yesterday as a homeless man looks on.

At least 10 specialist nurses in the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) have resigned effective the end of this month, leaving the 240-year-old institution haemorrhaging in the wake of the crisis now bedevilling the health sector.

Yesterday, President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, Janet Coore-Farr told The Gleaner that the 10 specialist nurses who have resigned were heading to the proverbial greener pastures to take up jobs. Chief Executive Officer of the hospital Errol Greene confirmed that there have been resignations but did not give a specific number. However, an impeccable source there told The Gleaner yesterday that the number of nurses who have handed in their resignations was significantly more than the 10 and that more was to come.

The situation at the KPH mirrors that of  the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) where chairman of the board James Moss-Solomon disclosed that all major surgeries have had to be postponed owing to an inadequate number of critical-care nurses there. It's an issue that has been badgering the sector for many years and Moss-Solomon cited the practice of developed countries that scoop up Jamaican specialist nurses and issue them with visas even before they graduate.

Nurse Coore-Farr reasoned that “The markets want to use them in their own country; we have to be very cognisant of the fact that first world countries are terribly short (of these nurses).” 

A concerned NAJ president said that she had been informed that no training was being provided at this time for emergency nurses.

“We will have compromised patient care. We don’t have the bodies to give the level of professional care that we need to have for the patient to get better. We just don’t have it,” she emphasised.

According to Coore-Farr the snatching up of the critical-care nurses was not the only thing to make the problems in the hospitals severe. Nurses with up to three years training are also being offered lucrative jobs in the health sector in other jurisdictions, she said.

“The nurses being trained for intensive care - about 50 per cent are set to leave the system by the time they graduate,” she said.

A forthright Coore-Farr said the nurses were fed up and those who are employed on a one-year contract sometimes resigned overnight “as they feel no obligation to the system because there is no security of tenure”.

“If you ask them why they are leaving it’s because the pay is poor,. When they borrow money from the Student’s Loan Bureau, to pay back they can hardly manage.”

Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at the KPH, Dr Natalie Whylie, said the severe shortage of critical-care nurses that continues to plague the health sector, was compounded by the fact that the downtown based institution does not have the option of cancelling surgeries.

“We have been facing our challenges and we have devised various strategies to be able to manage at the KPH. So for example, in the intensive care unit, we use registered nurses working alongside the specialist nurses to provide services because we don’t have the ratio that we should have in the intensive care unit,” she explained.

She added, “We have been facing that crisis for quite a few years and the recruitment is active. The Jamaican nurses are well-trained and they speak English as a first language so they are in demand. The United States (US), Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are some of the countries.”

At the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, Anthony Smikle, chief executive officer at the institution said the issue has become more severe in recent times, indicating that the parish’s spiralling homicide rate has made the delivery of services a challenging one.

"In terms of cancellation, to the magnitude which seem to have happened at the UHWI, we have not had that but we have been having challenges with the shortage of specially trained nurses and the attrition has also affected us," Smikle said. 

“The other issue is that because we are in Montego Bay which has the highest homicide rate, a lot of times the emergencies will impact the elective cases. That is a major issue.”

In responding to the issue, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, told RJR news that come next month 112 overseas nurses will be employed locally 47 of which will be critical care nurses.