Thu | Jul 19, 2018

WHO director general hopeful shares Jamaica's concern over nurse poaching

Published:Tuesday | January 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French candidate vying to become the next director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), says the international health community should work to remedy the practice of heavy recruiting of critical health-care workers by developed countries.

The local health sector has been in near chaos as of late, a primary cause being a chronic shortage of specialist critical-care nurses.

In the narrow space of a week, the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) had to cancel all major surgeries and the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) was rocked by the sudden resignation of at least 10 specialist nurses.

Douste-Blazy's comment comes on the heels of Dr Christopher Tufton stating his intentions to raise the matter of foreign countries poaching Jamaica's specialist nurses at an upcoming WHO board meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Douste-Blazy told The Gleaner that he shares Jamaica's concern on the matter.

The former two-term French health minister says a mechanism regarding human resources in public health needs to be developed. It should be beneficial to both developed and developing states.

He also added that if his candidacy is successful, he would organise a meeting with heads of member states to focus solely on human resources.

"Yes, I completely agree with your minister of health. One possibility to alleviate this is to ask specialist nurses in developed countries to come to developing countries for a period of time," Douste-Blazy told The Gleaner.

He added: "It is very difficult to say to a nurse in Jamaica, 'You are going to earn less money and I forbid you to go overseas,' but we (developed countries) can ask our nurses to come to developing countries and middle- and low-income countries.

"When you are a government (developed countries), when you organise a medical school or school for nurses, you can come to an agreement at the beginning of the study, to say, 'We are going to provide lessons and training for you, but after your diploma, you are going to go to a developing country for two or three years - or in Jamaica, if provisions are made.' We can say, 'After your diploma, you have to stay at home for three or four years obligatory', and it's the same for medical doctors."

He says it is among the matters he would pursue if he becomes the next head of the WHO.

Tufton, on previous occasions, also expressed his intentions for the ministry to seek partnerships with more countries, such as the United Kingdom and Cuba, to train more critical care health staffers to satisfy local demand.

On the topic of bolstering the depleted public health domain, Tufton recently stated that more than 100 critical-care nurses were recruited from Cuba last year and some had already been deployed into the public health system.

He also disclosed that talks were under way to get a similar number from India by March.

The five other candidates seeking ascension to the helm of the WHO are Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia; Flavia Bustreo, Italy; David Nabarro, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Sania Nishtar, Pakistan; and Miklos Szocska, Hungary.

This month, WHO's executive board will shortlist a maximum of five candidates. The executive board members will then interview these candidates and nominate up to three to go forward for consideration by the World Health Assembly in May 2017, when member states will vote in a new director general, who will take office on July 1.