Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 July 2023, 14:06 by Denis Chabrol
Faced with a serious shortage of nurses in the public health system, President Irfaan Ali on Wednesday announced that government was turning to Cuba for an emergency supply of that category of health workers while Guyana accelerates the training of surplus nurses.
“We are in discussion now, for example, with Cuba,” he said, adding that he held talks earlier Wednesday with the Cuban Ambassador to Guyana “to see if we can get Cuban nurses to come into the system now in the immediate period to help to fill that gap because of the immediate shortage that we have.”
Wednesday’s pronouncement is believed to be government’s first explicit account of a major nursing shortage in Guyana due to shortages in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, though for several months the President had repeatedly encouraged Guyanese to take up opportunities to be trained as nurses.
In response, he said Guyana’s strategy would be to train more nurses than it needs. “The medium and long term is to train and retrain and train more than the capacity than we need,” he said.
He said the entire Caribbean was in the grips of a major shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers, as heard first-hand by him on Tuesday. “Only yesterday, I met with a number of nurses at Georgetown Hospital and they are so happy for the work that they are some of them are doubling up on shifts because of the shortage,” he said.
The President said the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation was currently short of hundreds of nurses. Officials at GPHC said that health institution was battling with a shortage of at least 600 nurses. Nationally, the public health sector has a shortage of at least 1,300 nurses.
Within the past two years, Barbados has imported nurses from Ghana.
Last December, the Guyana government increased the salaries of all categories of health workers. Nurse aides and nursing assistants now earn GY$100,000 monthly; staff nurses GY$169,438 and staff nurse/midwives GY$195,000.