While the diligence and dedication of nurses have contributed to Barbados’ excellent health service, there are still challenges which the profession must surmount.
This was made clear by Minister of Health Donville Inniss, as he addressed the 74th Annual General Meeting of the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) at Almond Bay, Hastings, Christ Church recently.
Minister Inniss said: "Thanks to you, in particular, we have been very successful in the past with the delivery of health care services, especially in relation to eradication of communicable diseases. Our nurses over the years have been more than caregivers in a clinical setting.
"You have also been mothers, wives, community workers, activists and, generally speaking, the ones who have been at the forefront of keeping many communities together. You are indeed unsung heroes in this society."
Acknowledging the tremendous strides of past decades, he added it was imperative to address challenges facing nurses and their profession. Mr. Inniss spoke of the need for nursing to be seen as a profession, with the BNA seeking to establish operational standards and maintaining them without fear or favour.?? He urged the Association not to rely exclusively on "some Act of Parliament to regulate your profession".?? Mr. Inniss told the nurses, "You must engage in a high level of self-regulation, which will include issues such as training, attire, attitude and general deportment. One bad nurse can tarnish the reputation of the entire profession."
The Health Minister also addressed about the man-power needs of nursing in Barbados, pointing out that the country was nearing the stage where all nursing posts established within the public service, including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) would soon be filled.?? "I am advised that of the 838 nursing posts within the QEH, 423 staff nurse posts exist of which 20 posts are vacant but should be filled within a month. Within the rest of the public service a [there is] similar scenario," Mr. Inniss remarked.
However, nurses were cautioned that having all established posts filled did not mean that the requisite number of nurses were in place to meet the demands of the public and private sectors. The Minister, therefore, gave the assurance that a manpower audit would be undertaken by the Ministry of Health to identify the quantity and quality of nurses required to meet the changing dynamics of our society.
Noting that this meant increased resources and the training of specialists, he said the Ministry of Health expected to commence training in gerontology for nurses this year to be followed by paediatric nursing and training in the area of community health nursing, when the Ministry stepped up its community based health programmes.
Minister Inniss stated: "Our determination of additional nursing posts will not be based on just a numbers game. We will also need to ensure that our nurses are appropriately deployed where their skills can be maximised for the benefit of themselves, their patients and their institutions. It is no sense providing a high level of speciality training in one area and then have that be deployed elsewhere for an extended period of time.
Nurses were further told that once provided with training opportunities they would be expected "to work and be as productive as they possibly can".?? According to Mr. Inniss, there was a high level of absenteeism in the nursing establishment for the period October to December 2010 where the QEH lost 803 days due to absenteeism. He stressed: "This is indeed not a source of great comfort. Apart from vacation leave and certified sick leave, the numbers remain high. This can, if not well managed, translate to direct costs and indirect costs such as patient care."??