By Shermain Bique-Charles
The shortage of nurses in Antigua and Barbuda is one of the challenges being faced by the healthcare system, Information Minister Melford Nicholas revealed during a press conference on Thursday.
Not only are nurses leaving the island in large numbers, but reports are that some of them are overworked while others have been infected with Covid-19.
“There is a demand for nursing in this environment, where we have had a number of them had themselves become infected. They have had increased stress because of the demand and the competition from other jurisdictions … all of that combined, are part of the challenges,” Nicholas said.
A cohort of nurses is currently being trained at the local School of Nursing but Nicholas lamented that to get them to a certain level of proficiency it could take upwards of three years.
“The UWI have joined forces and they are introducing their own school of nursing. There is enrolment that is currently taking place. It is going to take about three to four years before they can complete their training,” Nicholas added.
The demand for nurses, according to Nicholas, has also increased due the government’s intention to expand the range of medical services.
“More training and more persons are invited and welcomed and we think that the nurses can look forward to immediate employment on completion of their studies … we have a cardiac unit, we are expanding the polyclinics and these need staff as well,” he added.
Meanwhile, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association (ABNA), Soria Dupie-Winston, said even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many nurses had planned on leaving for greener pastures.
“They had indicated they were leaving because in the larger countries there are more opportunities for them, so they tend to migrate,” she said.
Dupie-Winston said the government has made scholarships available for nurses but she wasn’t aware whether any of them had taken advantage of the initiative.
Nurses, according to the ABNA president, continue to feel the strain of the pandemic, saying that many of them are “tired”.
“Everyone is tired. The pandemic has been with us for over two years. We had a little lull when the cases were down but they are picking up again,” she added.
The government has commended the nurses and other healthcare practitioners for their dedication to their duties, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.