CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. Mar. 3, 2010: The Caribbean region is suffering from a chronic shortage of nurses are many are migrating to the United States, Canada and Britain.
That`s according to a recent World Bank report. The report, released Tuesday, said between 2002 and 2006, more than 1,800 Caribbean nurses left the region to work abroad.
They basically migrate for higher paying jobs leaving a nursing brain drain in the region. The report cites data that show 21,500 nurses trained in English-speaking Caribbean nations are working in Canada, Britain and the United States – three times as many as are working in their home countries.
World Bank estimated say there are currently 7,800 nurses are working in English-speaking Caribbean countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, or 1.25 nurses per 1,000 people.
In addition, demand for nurses exceeds their supply throughout the region: 3,300 or 30 percent of all positions in the sector were vacant at the time of the study.
The Bank said the shortage of nurses in English-speaking Caribbean nations is limiting the quality of healthcare and could be hindering development in the region.
Christoph Kurowski, lead author of the report, `The Nurse Labor and Education Markets in the English-Speaking CARICOM – Issues and Options for Reform, says regional governments should consider how they leverage the émigrés to strengthen local health systems.
`Nurses are the bedrock of highly functioning health systems in all countries,` said Evangeline Javier, Sector Director for Human Development in the World Bank`s Latin America and Caribbean region. `Our research suggests English-speaking countries in the Caribbean must adopt policies that aim to train more and at the same time retain quality nurses.`
In the coming years, demand for nurses in the English-speaking Caribbean will increase due to the health needs of the aging population. Under current education and labor market conditions, however, supply will slightly decrease. The World Bank expects that unmet demand for nurses will more than triple during the next 15 years — from 3,300 nurses in 2006 to 10,700 nurses in 2025.
`English-speaking Caribbean countries need to examine their policy responses towards the migration of health workers,` said Kurowski, World Bank Sector Leader for Human Development and lead author of the report. `Ideally, countries in the region should adopt a joined approach that balances the rights and interests of nurses and governments, as well as poorer and richer countries within the broader framework of the Caribbean Single Market Economy.`
The new World Bank report also points to high demand for nurse education but low completion rates (55 percent) as a challenge and opportunity in tackling nurse shortages. Having more nurse tutors available, maximizing completion rates and accepting more students into programs would significantly bolster the number of new nurses entering the health system.
The report highlights that the costs and benefits associated with training a nurse in the English-speaking CARICOM are unfairly distributed among nurses, countries of origin, and countries where some nurses choose to live and practice their profession. Given current migration patterns, the report estimates that for every nurse trained in Jamaica, for example, prime destination countries reap benefits between US$3,800 (Canada) and US$26,000.
The World Bank said the shortages hurt the countries` abilities to prevent disease and care for the sick. The report recommends an increase in training capacity, managed migration, the strengthening of data quality and availability and the adoption of a regional approach to efficiently tackle the challenges ahead on its own.
It urges countries to ideally join forces and adopt a regional approach to increasing training capacity, managing migration and strengthening the evidence-base, if possible, with technical and financial support from countries where a large part of their nurse workforce will tend to migrate, Canada, the UK and the US.