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PRESS RELEASE: As health care workers continue to leave the Caribbean, the study’s findings will help countries address the resulting shortages in human resources for health 

Barbados, February 8, 2018 (PAHO/WHO) – The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has launched a new study that will survey current migration trends of health care workers in the Caribbean Region. The results of the survey will be used to develop recommendations on migration within the health sector of the countries involved.

The study will be conducted over a three-month period in 16 CARICOM countries and territories: Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and the English-speaking islands of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The research team is planning to meet with representatives of ministries of health, hospitals, organizations, governments, general practitioners, primary health care groups, and others.

The outcomes of the survey will inform regional policy on migration in the Caribbean and contribute to the implementation of the WHO/PAHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel.

“The Region will soon face one of the most critical shortages in the labour market of health workers in its history if nothing is done to reverse the trend of low in-migration and high out-migration levels within the Anglo-Caribbean”, said Jessie Schutt-Aine, coordinator of the PAHO Subregional Program for the Eastern Caribbean. “The undersupply of these practitioners will impact negatively on both the quality and sustainability of health systems, especially in the smaller islands of the region”.

The migration and shortages of health care workers in the Americas, and particularly in the Caribbean Region, are impacting on health systems and services. The problem is also a global one, with an estimated 40 million new health care jobs required to meet people’s health needs and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals related to health by 2030, according to the latest projections from WHO and the World Bank.

The PAHO is working to address migration-related shortages of human resources for health in the Caribbean.

“The situation with regard to health care workers in the Caribbean and in most countries in the OECS is critical, with many persons opting to leave the region for better working conditions, higher salaries, better job security and even a better mental state of mind”, said Erika Wheeler, PAHO Subregional Advisor on Human Resources for Health.

C. Justine Pierre, principal researcher in the project and an expert in labour market and migration statistics, said, “The governments of the Caribbean Region have struggled to contain the migration of health workers, and very few, if any, have established migration protocols or policies in place”.

The recently approved PAHO Strategy on Human Resources for Universal Health urges countries to increase public investment in human resources for health, especially at the first level of care. The strategy aims to guide national policies to cover a shortfall of nearly 800,000 health workers in the Region of the Americas.