Health minister promises to address longstanding nurses issues

Trainee nurses from class of 2019. (Photo courtesy Ministry of Health Facebook page)
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Minister of Health, Molwyn Joseph, has responded to the renewed calls for retention of the island’s nurses, saying the long-standing nature of some of the issues, is hindering progress.

He was responding to the latest comments made by President of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association (ABNA), Soria Dupie-Winston, regarding the proposal to appoint nurses to schools.

Dupie-Winston said she welcomed the move, but added that it highlighted the need to urgently improve the conditions for nurses to remain in the country.

Speaking on Observer AM yesterday, Joseph acknowledged the nurses’ concerns, decribing some of the issues as being unresolved for several years; however, he assured that he will be making a concerted effort to solve these problems in the near future.

“Since that statement was made, I have reached out to the leadership of the nurses including the principal nursing officer who is part of my administration and also Nurse Dupie. They are what I would refer to as legacy issues. There are many issues with the nurses dating back for decades and it’s up to me now how quickly I can effectively respond to the concerns of the nurses. They are likely to see over the months, intense discussions with the nurses and I will be devoting a considerable amount of my time in finally addressing the issues that go back for decades,” Joseph assured.

He spoke further on the issue of migration, reminding it was not an issue exclusive to Antigua and Barbuda, but a problem being faced by the wider region. 

“There is a reality that we will not be able to hold on to all of our nurses because it is natural for people to look for greener pastures and there is an intense effort by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada to poach our nurses. Give them attractive packages and that is quite natural.

“This is not a phenomenon for Antigua alone and so it has been a concern across the board in the Caribbean, but indeed I believe some efforts on our part, we might be able to slow down the migration of our nurses and you can be assured that the ministry will be actively engaged to hold on to what we have and I must go on the record saying that our nurses are the best well trained nurses; that’s why the larger countries try to gobble them up,” the minister of health said.

Joseph also took the time to commend the nurses for their service through the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that without their efforts, the country would not have managed as well as it has been.

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