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‘Major and severe’ consequences for Jamaica as its nurses leave to work overseas

The country’s health minister issues warning on staffing levels.
Christopher Tufton

Healthcare in Jamaica is facing 'major and severe' consequences due to nursing staff leaving to work overseas, the countrys health minister has warned.

Christopher Tufton will highlight the issue at a World Health Organization (WHO) executive board meeting later this month.

A number of the bigger countries have recruited nurses from Jamaica, through various means, and this has created major and severe consequences for our own population and health care, Dr Tufton told Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner last week.

It is not just a challenge for Jamaica, it is also a challenge for many countries that do not have the capacity to train enough nurses to lose them through recruitment.

Poaching staff

The warning comes as the chair of one Jamaican hospital, which had to cancel all

Healthcare in Jamaica is facing 'major and severe' consequences due to nursing staff leaving to work overseas, the country’s health minister has warned.


Jamaican health minister Christopher Tufton says action
must be taken to tackle workforce crisis

Christopher Tufton will highlight the issue at a World Health Organization (WHO) executive board meeting later this month.

‘A number of the bigger countries have recruited nurses from Jamaica, through various means, and this has created major and severe consequences for our own population and health care,’ Dr Tufton told Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner last week.

‘It is not just a challenge for Jamaica, it is also a challenge for many countries that do not have the capacity to train enough nurses to lose them through recruitment.’

‘Poaching’ staff

The warning comes as the chair of one Jamaican hospital, which had to cancel all major surgeries for a week due to a shortage of specialist nurses, accused countries including the UK and US of ‘poaching’ nurses.

University Hospital of the West Indies chair James Moss-Solomon said: ‘We train them at a fraction of the cost of the US or UK, so it’s an economic issue.

‘There's a great saving in just poaching instead of training.’

Nursing viewpoint

International Council of Nurses director of nursing and health policy Howard Catton told Nursing Standard that his organisation will be attending the WHO meeting to make its own statement on the issue of overseas recruitment.

He said ‘There is no doubt that we are dealing with a global marketplace of nurse recruitment, which is generating mass demand but also a severe lack of supply in many of the countries being recruited from.’

Calling for a change of political mindset, Mr Catton added: ‘Countries need to do a lot more to invest in training and developing their own home-grown workers.’

Mass migration

The Nurses Association of Jamaica estimates that 200 of the country’s 1,000 specialist nurses migrated last year, and Jamaica is having to look to places such as Cuba to cover the shortfall.

In Jamaica, nursing is a graduate profession, where nurses agree to work in the country for up to four years in exchange for heavily subsidised training courses.

Figures from NHS Digital show that 479 nurses working in the health service in England came from Jamaica.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the UK was the first country to implement policies explicitly preventing the targeting of developing countries for health recruitment.

They added: ‘We work closely with WHO on ethical recruitment of healthcare professionals from overseas. We do not recruit from countries facing critical health workforce shortages.’


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