December 6, 2016
Sub-question: Why is the Jamaican government failing in to cash in on its investments?
The Jamaican government has been losing in droves each year nurses and teachers predominantly and other skilled professionals to countries that come and actively recruit from Jamaica. It is so bad that in 2014, over 200 nurses were lost from the profession and migrated to other countries or they simply resigned from the public sector according to Janet Coore- Farr who is the president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica. It is by no mean feat for a country with a population of 2.7 million people (World Bank, 2016) and with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$14.1 billion to be producing nurses and teachers which are then prised away by first world countries such as USA, Canada and England while these countries pay no compensation to Jamaica and therefore something needs to be done. It is for this reason that ‘Tufton wants to barter with countries recruiting Jamaica’s nurses’. Therefore there is a need to according to the Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton for Jamaica to be at minimum compensated by those developed countries which are luring health care professionals to work in their countries without having contributed to their training, education and or development.
Ways for the government to recoup its investment
The government of Jamaica cannot compete on a salary basis with countries such as the USA and Canada where registered nurse salaries in places such as Florida are being offered salaries at an average of US$60,000 per year. Jamaica has not built a hospital since the last 25 years notwithstanding the fact that there have been refurbishments, expansions and building clinics and this has left the nation’s health infrastructure in dire need of overhaul. According to Barnes (2015) seeing that Jamaica is ripe pickings for these countries such as USA and Canada and smaller islands such as Bahamas, U.S and British Virgin Islands and Cayman it is only sensible for Jamaica to seek ways to reclaim some of the J$641.56 billion which was the budgeted amount for the fiscal year of 2015/2016 for the education budget.
The government can recoup its investment by having nurses who are working in the system for less than ten years to have all the costs that the government had paid for their tertiary level education to be repaid by others who are recruiting them or the nurses that wants to leave. According to CaPRI there are benefits that can be derived from having a good education system yet Caribbean countries suffering from acute brain drain with Jamaica having the highest rate of migration of its tertiary educated graduates and being near the top of the table with over 4/5th of its university graduates leaving for countries such as USA, Canada and to a lesser extent the UK. The government through an act of parliament must make it a statutory regulation from overseas recruiters and or government to recruit through the government in conjunction with the Nurses Association of Jamaica so that compensation fees should be worked out for the amount the government had spent on training these nurses.
UTECH Midwifery Students (2014).
The government according to Dr. Christopher Tufton has not built any new hospitals in the last 25 years and it means that in 1995, Jamaica had a population of 2.4 million people which has now risen to 2.7 million. Drastic measures will only serve to stem the tide of the nurses who are going overseas and not only that use the compensation as part of a fund to boost and improve the public sector health services. It is agreed that the nurses in Jamaica are working in conditions which are not as good as the countries that they are leaving to, such as Canada and the USA .In terms of facilities and the pay, this does not make for encouraging reading either with an average salary of J$156,666 monthly for a registered nurse and in 2010, three out of every four nurses that were trained went to the US, and Canada.
Nurses protesting for higher wages in 2006 (Jamaica Observer, 2015).
The Jamaican government should have the nurses in five year contracts which if it is broken, the compensation should be all that was spent on the training and development and also for the remaining balance of the tenure of the contract compounded by a break clause of an amount to be determined by the government for each nurse which would go directly to funding training and salary remuneration for salaries that are here in Jamaica. Hence, a bilateral accord should be struck with any countries that are seeking to recoup our nurses from the public sector and having the host country which is receiving our nurses to send professionals such as professors and other academics to assist with training in specialized areas, as well as medical supplies.
Bed donation to Spanish Town Hospital from J.Wray & Nephew (The Jamaica Gleaner, 2016).
There is a chronic shortage for specialist nurses in Jamaica and therefore whilst countries recruit our best minds in reference to our nurses then the compensation must not be a deterrent but as what the Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton says should be a barter whereby Jamaica benefits from exporting nurses by way of getting revenue that goes directly to funding the health sector. The funding does not have to be cash but an offset of the cash amount whereby the professionals and academics along with expertise in building new hospitals and the funding of new hospitals in the form of grants so that we as the citizens of Jamaica do not look at our nurses as mercenaries but that they are bringing development and infrastructure to our health sector.
The next 25 years
The barter system should then be measured after 25 years so that it is not a haphazard or incoherent approach taken by the government but one which is methodical and systematic. In looking at the future we should encourage our nurses to remain in the health sector, however, not to be an impediment to their professional growth and therefore the path that the nurses should take to working in health sectors in the US for example must be through a barter system which benefits Jamaica which is only fair.
Conclusion and recommendation
The health system has been haemorrhaging from the loss of our trained and specialist nurses because better remuneration to developed countries and as a result us at home have to bear the brunt of the costs. That is to be expending on training of new nurses and this seem as though it is a revolving door with no end in sight. Finally the government through the Minister of Health Dr. Tufton has made a bold declaration that bartering can be done with the host countries where the nurses are going. By virtue of this we await with hope that not only will we recoup financially from the nurses that are leaving but also that the health system start to become more modernized and this will be welcomed by news and or announcement that a new hospital will be built which would have been the first in 25 years. Until we await for a policy at the government level on the matter nurses should foot more of the expenses to their education.
Barnes. G. (2015). Budget of $641.56 billion for 2015/2016. Retrieved from: http://jis.gov.jm/budget-641-56-billion-201516/
Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) (2009). Funding tertiary education in Jamaica. Retrieved from: http://www.capricaribbean.com/documents/funding-tertiary-education-jamaica
Porter, R. (2015). Public Health Sector lost 200 nurses last year – NAJ. Retrieved from: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Public-health-sector-lost-200-nurses-last-year—NAJ_19219817
World Bank (2016). Jamaica. Retrieved from: http://www.worldbank.org