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Nurses seek new remedy

Published:Sunday | March 4, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Practical nursing students appeal to education ministry

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

Almost a year after a plethora of problems and student complaints forced the Ministry of Labour to place a stop order on all programmes in Jamaica designed to train practical nurses for work in Canada, scores of despondent practical nursing students have appealed to the Ministry of Education to have the matter rectified.

One of the frustrated students made an appeal via email to Grace McLean, acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education.

"We are seeking the ministry's intervention in this matter as we believe Pre-University School is registered with the Ministry of Education. We thought the matter could have been resolved by the Ministry of Labour ..." read a section of the letter addressed to McLean.

The email explained that "the Pre-University School in conjunction with Norquest College located in Alberta, Canada, offered a distance 18-month licensed practical nursing (LPN) programme from 2009-2011. However, to date, we have not been able to receive our diplomas although we have completed the course".

It continued: "We have paid J$270,000 in tuition, CDN$1,500 to Marmicmon to find jobs in Canada and between J$3,000-12,000 for our last practicums completed in some of our health facilities."


In May 2011, Professor Michael Patterson, spokesperson for Marmicmon Integrated Marketing and Communications, told The Gleaner that the $1,500 in Canadian currency is for "bringing the employers to Jamaica". The money, he explained, pays for accommodation and airfare for the employers who meet and interview the students at a job fair, and offer jobs to those who do well.

The practical nursing student also revealed that Pre-University recently asked each of them to pay an additional CDN$300 to offset their indebtedness with Norquest College in order for them to receive their diplomas.

"We believe this is unfair and inhumane," the student wrote.

"The school has subsequently offered its students a 'Pre-University diploma' which has no value (lacks accreditation) as we would not be able to matriculate to any university to complete a bachelor in nursing."

A copy of a letter reportedly issued by Dr Charlton Collie, chairman of the Pre-University School, informed students that the institution was working to get their diplomas from its "Canadian counterparts in Canada".

"The pre-payment plan we discussed for your Canadian fees is a concession by the Pre-University School to expedite your Canadian diploma and earliest departure to Canada."

Attempts to contact Collie were unsuccessful. Dr Ronald Robinson, executive director of the Pre-University School, was also unavailable.

An investigation carried out by The Sunday Gleaner last year found that many practical nurses in training have not been able to get jobs in Canada as was promised.

They believe they were ripped off and have been planning protest action against the schools to which they have paid between $250,000 and $300,000 in tuition.

Statistics provided by the Ministry of Labour at the time revealed that some three years after the programme began, most of the nurses trained to work in Canada are still grounded in Jamaica.

The labour ministry had stated that since the genesis of the programme in 2008, some 156 persons successfully completed the academic and practicum requirements. Of that number, only 30 departed for Canada up to May 2011.

Four months after the Jamaican Government issued a stop order on new recruits, NorQuest College informed the students that they would not receive the Canadian diplomas because the Pre-University School defaulted on its contractual obligations.

Under the threat of a class-action lawsuit, the head of Pre-University School told agitated practical nursing students that its Canadian counterpart's decision to pull the plug on the programme was an attempt to shame the local-based institution over a dispute they have over money.

Meanwhile, the concerned practical nursing students are confident that the education ministry will remedy their longstanding ailment. "We are very optimistic that with the Ministry's intervention this debacle can be resolved amicably and expeditiously."


Practical Nursing Stats, May 2011

Three hundred and fifty-two students are currently enrolled in the Canadian licensed practical nursing programme.

Eighty-two are enrolled in the personal care attendant programme.

Since the genesis of the programme in 2008, 156 persons have successfully completed the academic and practicum requirements of the programmes. Of that number, 30 have departed for Canada.

Twenty-six visas have been granted (these persons are awaiting a date to travel).

Fifteen visa applications are currently with the Canadian High Commission.

Sixty-nine job offers for registered care aids are awaiting labour-market opinion proceedings.

- Source: Ministry of Labour