NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams yesterday urged the government to focus on ensuring University of The Bahamas nursing students are being adequately prepared to graduate and enter the healthcare system.
Williams questioned the government’s decision to recruit 100 nurses from abroad, as the country struggles to deal with the rising COVID-19 cases in New Providence and increased pressure on the ability to deliver healthcare.
She noted that while she understands that more nurses are needed in the COVID-fight, the government should concentrate on readying student nurses to enter the healthcare system.
“I’m not saying that we don’t need the assistance, but look at what are you doing first to rectify the issue here, and ensure that your economy continues to grow, rather than to diminish,” Williams said.
She noted that while The Bahamas is producing fewer nurses than the United States, Bahamian nurses remain competitive employees in the market.
“Let us train our own so that we will be able to ensure that our country is stable,” she said.
Health officials revealed on Friday that 243 healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19 and the remaining healthcare workers are experiencing burnout
Minister of Health Renward Wells acknowledged the shortage of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers and advised that the government expects to recruit 100 nurses from abroad.
He added that more than 30 nurses were in the process of being hired and placed and another 71 nurses are expected to join the healthcare system following the passage of their exams on November 1.
But Williams insisted however that those licensing examinations should not have been staggered.
She furthered that the government must put pressure on the University of The Bahamas to produce nurses at a faster pace to suit the local healthcare needs.
She said every year 80 – 100 students are expected to graduate from the nursing program.
“Why haven’t we put the pressure on UB to ensure that these nurses are up for graduation, that they have not lost any of their contact hours or hours of clinical training,” she asked.
Some student nurses at the school have expressed concerns over missed practicums due to the inability to train in the hospital.
This may also have an impact on when they can graduate and enter the healthcare system, they have told Eyewitness News.
Williams suggested that protocols could be implemented where students could get their clinical experience in a way that they are not exposed, or make adjustments to the clinical hours required and implement the hours in classroom or lab settings.
“At the end of the day, if they can’t come to the hospital, then we need to bring the hospital to them,” she said.
Williams noted that bringing in foreign nurses would cost the government in airfare, housing, and more.
“…We have a minister [of health] who needs to think like a doctor or think like he is running a hospital. You can’t always go foreign and there is a process to get those nurses over here.”
She insisted that in the time it takes to get those nurses in The Bahamas, concentration could be placed on readying Bahamian student nurses.
She furthered that when those foreign nurses are employed the money leaves the country and weakens the economy.
“Why are we depriving our Bahamian people?” she said.
Wells noted that 29 senior house officers were in the process of being hired and “many will report for duty as soon as Monday”.
Of those SHO nurses, 20 will be deployed at Princess Margaret Hospital, four in the Department of Public Health, three at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center, and two in Freeport.
The minister said two additional nurses were hired in the Department of Public Health, three more were in the process of being hired and four more nurses have joined the fight on a sessional basis.
He said: “These numbers may seem small, but every additional person counts and provided some relief for their colleagues. We will continue to do more to increase our staff complement.”