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Darville says 30 specialty nurses needed

While efforts are ongoing to address a severe shortage of nurses in The Bahamas, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville said yesterday that the task is proving to be challenging.

He noted that even as the government tries to recruit 30 specialty nurses to address the deficiency, Bahamian nurses are being recruited by other countries, exacerbating the issue.

“There is a shortage of nursing staff, specialty nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Sandilands Rehabilitation, as well as the Rand [Memorial Hospital],” Darville said.

“The government is out there seeking additional nursing support staff.

“As you are aware, trained specialty nurses, they are not just anywhere in the world sitting down and waiting for someone to call. These are persons who are in great demand. And we have been in discussions with the nursing council.

“We have had discussions with the unions as it relates to try to fill in the gaps.

“From my initial assessment, we have been informed that there is a deficiency of some 30 specialty nurses and we need to move swiftly to see exactly if we can find them.

“And while we are doing that, it is important for us to begin now to initiate new programs for training additional nurses. While this is happening, there are people in our country recruiting our nurses for the developed world. And this is what we have to compete with. And so, we must find ways to ensure that we try to keep our nurses at home, once they finish the program, by offering better packages and other incentives for them to stay at home.”

Even before COVID-19 swept across the globe, in early 2020, The Bahamas was facing a shortage of nurses.

The issue became a vital one, in the pandemic, as hospitals quickly became overwhelmed and staff stretched to their capacity.

At multiple points, during the second and third waves of COVID, beds were available but could not be used because of the shortage of nurses.

Several nurses in The Bahamas have died of COVID-19, while others have left the country for opportunities elsewhere.

Darville said yesterday that the government is currently in “negotiations and discussions” to try to find nurses to fill the vacancies but he said that it is very possible that a fourth wave could be devastating. 

“It’s a difficult situation but we must continue to explore the possibility to fill in the gaps because, I can tell you, the last wave was a difficult wave and we have stretched our healthcare manpower resources to the limit,” he said.

“We are so pleased that we have a slight break where some of them can actually recuperate and get some rest but, with that being said, we cannot underestimate the possibility of something similar happening to us, which came with the third wave a couple of months ago.”

Darville made the comments after two new wards were commissioned at PMH, adding a total of 33 beds.

He noted that the new wards, which had a combined cost of roughly $900,000, both have negative pressure, which means they can be used for the treatment of COVID patients. 

Darville said with the recent lull in COVID cases and hospitalizations, a priority is to ensure that non-COVID patients who delayed healthcare can be seen as quickly as possible. 

“We are very fortunate that since the bulk of the third wave, we have been seeing a decrease in admissions into the hospital, COVID-related, which gives us an opportunity to see some of the chronic non-communicable diseases and begin to…look as it relates to new patients and patients suffering from other medical illnesses.

“Because of COVID, a lot of the specialty clinics were closed and a lot of the patients, who would normally seek attention at PMH, now have the capability to do it as we speak.”

Darville said those specialty clinics are now open again.

“What we want to do now is we want to increase the amount of patients that can be seen with these specialty clinics and services,” he said.

“And this break that we have with admissions for COVID would allow us to do it while looking at improving the services at PMH, so that, God forbid, we find ourselves in another wave, I believe that with manpower, training and working out the logistics, we would be in a better position with these new wards now coming on stream.”

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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