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Sorry, no diplomas - Canadian practical nursing programme in shambles after overseas college pulls the plug

Published:Sunday | September 11, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Tyrone Reid, Enterprise Reporter

Four months after the Jamaican Government issued a stop order on new recruits because of problems plaguing the Canadian nursing programme, the Pre-University batch of students were given another dose of bitter medicine.

Last Thursday, NorQuest College issued a letter to the Pre-University students informing them that they would not receive the diplomas needed to gain entry into Canada because the Edmonton-based college said the Pre-University School defaulted on its contractual obligations.

This is another hard blow to hundreds of practical nursing students who have invested thousands of dollars for a chance to migrate to Canada with their families.

Meanwhile, Labour Minister Pearnel Charles has pledged to do damage control when he flies to Canada later this month. But, his work will be cut out for him because the Canada-based college has made its position very clear.

Contract not renewed

"Dear Practical Nurse Student: This letter is to inform you that the contract between NorQuest College and Pre-University School in Jamaica to offer the NorQuest College Practical Nurse Diploma program ended on April 30, 2011 and will not be renewed," read a section of the NorQuest letter penned by Norma Schneider, vice-president of teaching and learning at NorQuest College.

It continued: "The Pre-University did not meet its contractual obligations with respect to the clinical education component, nor did it meet its financial contractual obligations to NorQuest College, which prevented the renewal of the contract."

Schneider explained to the students that this latest development meant that they would be unable to finish their requirements to complete the practical nursing programme and to receive certification from NorQuest College.

"If you wish to continue and complete your Practical Nurse diploma, there may be opportunities to apply and attend NorQuest College as an International Student. This does involve additional costs and acquiring a student visa from the government of Canada," noted Schneider.

When The Sunday Gleaner broke news about problems plaguing the practical nursing programme in mid-May, many of the student nurses believed they were ripped off, while others have planned protest action against the schools that accepted between $250,000 and $300,000 from them in tuition alone for a chance to live and work in Canada.

Reacting to this latest development in what has been a tumultuous journey towards the Canadian dream, a Pre-University nursing student demanded a full refund from the school. "It is such a sham. A disorganised mess. They need to refund us every penny," said the livid nursing student who asked not to be named.

Ministry to intervene

Meanwhile, Charles, who announced the stop order earlier this year on all programmes in Jamaica designed to train practical nurses for work in Canada, said the ministry would again intervene to have the current malady remedied.

Charles said he would be making contact with the Pre-University to ascertain the finer details of the problem before he jets to Canada later this month. "The ministry will use its best efforts to have the matter examined and settled in Canada," the labour minister said last Friday.

Statistics provided by the Ministry of Labour in May revealed that some three years after the birth of the programme offering the Canadian dream, most of the nurses trained to work there are still grounded in Jamaica.

At that time, 352 students were enrolled in the Canadian licensed practical nursing programme and 82 were enrolled in the personal care attendant programme. The labour ministry also said that at that time some 156 persons successfully completed the academic and practicum requirements but only 30 had departed for Canada.

An email issued to students by the Pre-university School said a meeting will be held this week. "Dear students, after discussions today between NorQuest College, the Ministry of Labour and the Pre-University School a meeting will be held next week with the student body," read the terse email that dispatched last Friday morning.