Health Minister, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, has said that the nursing service in Dominica is ‘fast nearing critical levels’ but some people are making it appear worse than it is and has pledged government support for staff of the Ministry of Health.
He said he met with nurses recently where their concerns were discussed.
“Just to reassure Dominicans, I think the situation with the nursing attrition, yes it is serious … you know some people are making it appear to be so grave, okay, yes, it is fast nearing critical levels …” he stated on a recent radio program.
Officials at the Ministry of Health have raised concerns over the exodus of nurses from Dominica after Hurricane Maria.
According to figures from the ministry, some 14 nurses including retirees departed the island since the hurricane.
In 2017, a total of 14 nurses including retirees also left the island.
This is a total of 28 nurses and officials fear this could have an impact on health services on the island.
The Dominica Nurses Association has blamed the government for “nurses leaving Dominica in droves”.
“We are very disturbed by what appears to be the inability of the Ministry of Health and by extension, government after government after government, to make the healthcare environment more positive, attractive and caring enough to retain adequate numbers of home-educated nurses,” the association said.
Dr. Darroux said he recently met with a wide cross-section of nurses at the Princess Margaret Hospital and they said money was not the issue.
“While I would have met with some of the nurses and I will speak to a meeting I had with them, some of them individually,” he stated. “They told me no it is not about the money, yes it is about the money. No one is going to hold it against you if you feel that for economic reasons that you have to leave but sometimes it is more about money and I think it is one of these classic cases.”
He described the meeting as good and cordial “where we would have listened to them.”
“They would have been given the opportunity to express their concerns openly, frankly, respectably and we would have taken cabinet decisions for some immediate measures that will bring some sort of relief for some 0f the little things that they’ve been asking for,” he stated.
Darroux pointed out that the night nourishment or on-call allowance was increased from $20 to $40 per night.
“They’ve also been asking for a one-time uniform allowance, meaning that a number of homes were destroyed, completely blown away by Hurricane Maria and with that would have gone their uniforms, so we have approved, if I recall correctly, $500 one time allowance, so that they can restock,” he stated.
He also said there has been an increase on on-call and call allowances for specialist nurses such as Family Nurse Practitioners and other specialized nurses.
“There were a number of issues that were brought on the table, a number of them are issues we can solve from an administrative point of view, like transportation and some of these other issues,” Darroux said.
In terms of salary increase for nurses, the Health Minister said that matter is a more ‘intense one.’
“The issue of salary increases is a much bigger one, a much more intense one, as I told them frankly that I as the Minister of Health cannot come and tell you that I am going to give you an increase in salary,” he remarked.
He argued that there must be a serious discussion on salary increase because although nursing is an essential service, there are also other essential services.
“So we have to look, as I said, at the bigger picture but I have to commend those of you who have decided to stay and those of you who are putting your all into it,” Dr. Darroux said.
He also said a proper plan must be put in place because “we need to have a fresh stock of nurses to replace those who feel the need to leave our shores.”