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CAROL M ATROO Tuesday, December 27 2016

It has been a burning issue here in Trinidad and Tobago...a shortage of nurses within the health sector and a brain drain that has local nurses seeking employment abroad.

Since being elected two months ago as president of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nursing Association (TTRNA), Idi Stewart said he would be looking into keeping local nurses here within the health system.

Speaking with Newsday yesterday, Stewart said during this Christmas season nurses have been fulfilling their duties, with just a few exceptions. “I can’t say what the figures are, but there has not been any drastic shortage as far as I have heard, or any fall outs. Most of the nurses came out to work, there may have been one or two on a shift but nothing drastic.

“I will be looking at the shortage of nursing staff in the new year. In 2017 it would get even worse due to the fact that a number of United States and English recruiting agencies are presently intervieing a number of our nurses. They are being offered positions abroad so they would have done the exams so they can get through with the proposals to go abroad,” he said He said some of the nursing agencies were only hiring European nurses, but now that England had reopened its borders to Caribbean nurses, next year the nursing brain drain would begin again.

“There has been no emphasis placed on the problem, but we are hoping that the nurses who would gruaduate later would fill the gap, but unfortunately they would be green and need to be guided, and the senior ones would not be around to shepherd them.” Stewart said the nurses could not be blamed because there was a lack of opportunities locally for nurses to advance themselves.

He said their basic salary was “miniscule” for a professional for a person who would have spent five years training, no health insurance.

“There is a lack of opportunities financiallly and professionally so a number of nurses are looking to fly out. A number of them would have gotten in contact with the Nursing Council to get their transcripts ready,” Stewart said.

He said a standard nurse’s salary was around $6,000 a month, with allowances. However, these allowances were paltry when compared with foreign nurses who received about $3,000 for housing when compared to local nurses who received $100

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