A 2016 operations review report of the Princess Margaret Hospital found that the hospital requires an additional 115 to 120 nurses to adequately service patients.
“While there is no process in place and data available to determine the true staffing requirements for PMH, we estimate the number of additional nurses needed to adequately staff to be 115-120, based on current patient volumes,” it read.
While the report noted that nurse education is “fairly robust”, it stated that the shortage of nurses causes significant issues at the hospital.
“Many nursing slots go unfilled, with patients not progressing to discharge as they should,” it read.
“Excessive overtime is incurred, with nurses sometimes working multiple shifts (up to 16 hours), compromising patient care and safety.”
It added, “They typically will work overtime on all or most of their 4 days off.”
The report also found that a significant number of nurses were non-Bahamian.
“Twenty-three percent of nursing staff are from outside of The Bahamas with heavy concentration [from the] Philippines, Jamaica and Africa,” it noted.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that while the government is doing what it can to address the issue, he believes the report greatly underestimates the country’s nursing shortage.
“That number dramatically underestimates the deficiency or the deficit,” said Sands.
“In terms of the shortage of nurses in country in the public sector, it’s in the many hundreds.”
Sands added, “One of the things that we have done is we have just provided a scarcity allowance for nurses – $3,000 a year for registered nurses and $2,000 a year for trained clinical nurses.
“They will start getting that in January 2020. So, it is an effort to demonstrate the recognition that as a profession, they are indeed scarce. They are being recruited away from The Bahamas.”
Sands said the shortage has great impacts on healthcare quality in the country.
“Arguably, the most important contact that determines quality of care is contact time with a registered nurse,” he said.
“So, if you don’t have enough registered nurses in your healthcare system, it is impossible to provide the level of care that you need.”
Sands said the problem is not unique to The Bahamas, but is instead an issue faced by the entire region.
“This issue of nursing poses an existential threat for the delivery of healthcare services in the Caribbean,” he said.
“Because you have wealthier countries now who are recruiting very well-trained nurses because they can pay them a lot more.”
Sands added, “Obviously, The Bahamas can never compete with the United States or Canada blow for blow, but we ought to do the very best that we can.”