Pay nurses better, Abrahams urges
Popular Jamaican doctor and comedian Michael Abrahams says until nurses get paid better, Jamaica will continue to lose them to other countries.
Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, Abrahams expressed his indignance at the compensation nurses get for the amount of work they do.
Nurses very often have to do other things apart from just nursing, like lifting patients, and money is a big part of it. I can tell you this, until nurses in this country get paid better, we're gonna have this problem," he said referring to brain drain. Abrahams says when he graduated from medical school in 1989, nurses' salaries were a joke and in the 33 years since, the change is minuscule.
"Many nurses can't even afford to buy a car to transport themselves, so many are still using public transport," he said. Abrahams, who is a gynaecologist, emphasised the importance of the role nurses play and how integral they are to the operation of the healthcare sector.
"It affects the whole health sector because when you have an experienced nurse working in a hospital, she has experience and she's used to that space then she leaves, and new people come, you have to start training them again. They don't have the experience, they don't know the place and it affects patient care both in the public and the private sector," he said.
Howard Mitchell, chairman of the National Health Fund, agreed that the level of compensation the nurses receive is subpar, but said the problem cannot be fixed with just more money.
"We can never compete with the established global markets that Jamaicans can easily access. It also has to do with the holistic placement of public health in a more important way than it currently is. We have to look at National Housing Trust perhaps providing accommodation at hospital points or close for hospital workers ... so that it takes the burden of transportation and security off of them," he said.