Guyana recruits Cuban nurses to fill massive shortage at health facilities

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Guyana has turned to the Cuban Government to assist with the shortage of nurses to fill capacities in the health system, as the Health Ministry mobilises to train thousands in the upcoming years.

The country has been faced with trained nurses leaving the system, and a majority migrating overseas in exchange for better opportunities. In some cases, recruiters have actively scooped up these healthcare professionals to work in their respective countries.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony on Friday disclosed that in the interim, the Cuban Government has lent assistance. These workers will undergo a three-month language programme, to effectively communicate with patients here.

“We do have a shortage and we have to work to mitigate that shortage. You can’t get a nurse overnight so we have to train people. We have embarked on that; that will take some while before we actually get them, so we started.”

He added, “In the interim, we are searching around to recruit nurses and bring them into the system. In the programme that we have with Cuba, in the past, we weren’t bringing a lot of nurses. We were bringing more doctors but now we have asked the Cuban Government for nurses.”

While some of these healthcare workers have already arrived during 2023, at least 200 more are expected next year.

Locally, some 1100 persons are undergoing a hybrid nursing programme, which will be completed in three years. The aim is to train 1000 nurses annually, accompanied by another 1000 nursing assistants within that timeframe.

“We want to train at least 1000 every year for the next four years. Once we can do that, we will have enough nurses for the system that we’re designing. There is no way out of this except training people and bringing them into the system…We will continue doing that until we fill whatever needs we have.”

An audit was conducted into the functions of nurses in the country, where it was found that many were conducting non-clinical duties. Efforts have been taken to separate these functions, where the trained workers focus on clinical functions and others are hired to address an institution’s non-clinical needs.

Going forward, the Ministry is also working on staffing structures for the new hospitals which are under construction and will come on stream by 2024.

“I think that will help to mitigate some of the immediate needs that we have,” he outlined.This week, it was reported that the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is facing a shortage of 600 nurses to meet its full complement, which represents a deficit of 55 per cent.

Currently, 896 nurses are employed at the hospital, and of that number, 86 were hired this year. In addition, 146 nurses have resigned this year, and according to the Director of Nursing Services, Dr Leslyn Holder, this number continues to increase.

The Government had raised the monthly wages of nurses, among other healthcare workers, to increase retention.

Last year, nurse aides had their current minimum salary adjusted upwards from $80,892 to $100,000. This represented an additional 23.6 per cent increase in the minimum salary paid to each worker.

Nursing assistants also had their minimum salary adjusted upwards from $88,525 to $115,000. This represented an additional 29.9 per cent increase on the current minimum salary paid to a nursing assistant.

Midwives’ salaries moved up from $96,974 to $169,438, representing an additional 74.7 per cent increase on their previous salary.

Staff nurses had their minimum salary adjusted upwards from $111,628 to $169,438 – a 51.8 per cent increase. Staff nurses/midwives’ salaries moved from $127,963 to $195,000, a 52.4 per cent increase.