BNA: Outstanding issues continue to plague profession

Even though nurses have received high praises over the last year, thanks to their efforts to help combat COVID-19, several outstanding issues continue to plague the profession and hamper efforts to take the craft forward.

So said Joanna Waterman, outgoing President of the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA), as she spoke after her association’s 84th Annual General Meeting on Friday.

In her report, Waterman said while longstanding issues such as nurses being paid in a timely manner have been addressed, several other problems still affect the fraternity in a major way.

“We have a huge deficit in nursing personnel, and that is something the BNA has been crying out on for a very long time now. Over the years, the departments have been expanded, the services have been increased, and there has been no real increase in [the] nursing complement or even the [expansion] of the establishment statute that would enable more posts to be created. Therefore we have a huge deficit in a number of areas, particularly for registered nurses, also for nursing assistants, and that is across the board.

“Queen Elizabeth Hospital, our acute care setting, psychiatry, our mental health setting, geriatrics, our gerontology setting, the district hospitals with the long-term care, and the polyclinics with our public health,” she explained.

According to Waterman, just over 700 nursing personnel are currently needed at the island’s health-care services, with the number expected to rise in the future.

“So what we have as a deficit of nursing personnel is a total right now, and this is the most current update, of 731 nurses overall deficit. That is both a combination of registered nurses, as well as nursing assistants.

“We recently had of course 95 Ghanaian nurses brought in, who have a variety of skills and good experiences, and then we had 100 Cuban nurses [added]. That has helped somewhat, but it’s still a big deficit that we have,” she added.

Another issue that has been outlined by the BNA, is a need for specialist nurses on the island. The matter, which according to Waterman has been approved by Government as far back as in 2018 by setting aside $1 million, would see these specialized caregivers being used in the area of Accident and Emergency and with chronic patient care.

“The research shows in countries like Canada and the UK who are leading in specialist nurses, the vital role that specialist nurses play in managing patients and clients with chronic non-communicable diseases, reducing the complications. Also, the role that specialist nurses who are at the level of doctoral nursing, where they have the skill and the capacity to prescribe medication on certain levels, and do a certain level of diagnosing.

“When you have specialist nurses, they reduce the burden of care on the doctors, especially in the areas like the Accident and Emergency department,” Waterman stressed.

An established School of Nursing on the island is also being pushed by the BNA, with Waterman saying that support has been received from both Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, for plans of this certified school for nurses in the near future. (SB)

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