As the Caribbean grapples with widespread migration of its healthcare professionals, the government may be exploring an arrangement whereby locally trained nurses could be “exported” to North American countries.
Canada and the United States have been aggressively campaigning to attract Caribbean health professionals, a move that has negatively affected the quality of healthcare delivery in the region, as nurses have responded positively to seeking better opportunities abroad.
However, remittances sent back to home countries such as Antigua and Barbuda could soften the blow to advancements in healthcare services.
During Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst, was asked if the administration had ever considered a formal export process to legitimise the current migration and to secure benefits to the country.
He said while the proposal was “reasonable”, discussions among Cabinet officials and members of the diplomatic corps suggested that developed countries may have to create a similar programme in every country where nurses are immigrating from, which may not be feasible.
Despite this, the government is still considering the possibilities.
“A part of the University of the West Indies being placed in Antigua [is] to serve the OECS [Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States], where you can actually have a programme that would be focussed on producing nurses for, let’s say, the Canadian market, and we could arrange with the Canadians to help us to produce more and better trained nurses for export to Canada,” Hurst stated.
The Canadians were praised by Hurst as being “helpful” and have encouraged emigration through investing in education to better manage the migration of skilled workers from Antigua.
He added that the United States had been similarly generous in the past but said he believed the relationship has since changed due to time and other global developments.
Remuneration, working conditions and other issues have influenced Caribbean nurses – often considered some of the most well trained – to take their dedication and efficiency to developed nations.
In an online article published by Radio Jamaica in March, more than 700 nurses have migrated from Jamaica since the Covid-19 pandemic.