Barbados Today: – The Mia Mottley administration is once again setting its sights on Africa in search of dozens of nurses to supplement a healthcare system under tremendous strain because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic revealed that less than three weeks ago, he met with his Ghanaian counterpart, Kwaku Agyeman Manu to discuss the possibility of another 100 nurses migrating to Barbados.
“If we can get another 100 nurses, we’ll be happy. But it seems as though we may get probably about 70 to 75 because Ghana also has its own issues as well, even though they have surplus nurses,” Minister Bostic told reporters on Tuesday.
“The Prime Minister [Mia Mottley], would have spoken to the President of Ghana at the United Nations meeting a few weeks ago and they are in the process of trying to make that happen so that we can get those additional nurses,” the minister added.
Bostic explained that the rationale is not so much about directly managing the current COVID-19 surge, but to ensure that many of the country’s chronically ill patients, in particular, can continue to receive high-quality care.
“There is more to public health than the pandemic and we have to continue with the NCD clinics, the prenatal and so forth. We cannot drop the ball in that regard. If not, we are going to have problems of another kind, especially with the NCDs and trust me, you are more likely to get more deaths from NCDs than even COVID-19, even though we have the surge,” Bostic added.
On Tuesday, polyclinics were forced to withdraw their nurses from at least one COVID-19 vaccination site to bolster healthcare services at the Eunice Gibson Polyclinic.
Minister Bostic, who was at the time receiving medical supplies from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), dismissed claims that the nurses, who were stationed at the Sharon Moravian Church, were on strike.
He added that the call for more nurses from Ghana was no indication that assistance from Ghanaian and Cuban nurses already here, retired Barbadian nurses, the Diaspora Brigade, the New York-based Northwell Group and others from educational institutions across the country were somehow falling short.
Instead, he said it showed the extent of the shortages that have forced his ministry to rethink every aspect of the delivery of healthcare.
“For example, with the Delta surge, we examined what we were doing within the geriatric facilities and we recognised that we could remove some of the nurses from the geriatric facilities and that has happened,” Bostic disclosed.
“About 20 or 25 have been temporarily reassigned to isolation facilities and we’ve been able to fill some of those positions with nursing auxiliaries and other members, who can do some of the functions that were being performed by nurses in those facilities,” he explained.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Kenneth George meanwhile stressed that special pains must be taken to ensure the gains made in public health over the years are not eroded because of the pandemic.
As such, he declared that common conditions in Barbados like obesity, hypertension and diabetes needed to receive attention, especially because affected persons are at greater risk for deterioration from COVID-19, especially when unvaccinated.
“We in public health say that a death should not occur before the age of 70. If it occurs before the age of 70 it’s considered a life cut short and the challenge we are having is we are seeing people who are under the age of 70,” said Dr George.