PM Gonsalves says he does not begrudge nurses wanting to work overseas but asserts “everybody can’t go and turn their back on we who pay to train them”
KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES — The government will be looking to bond nurses, requiring them to remain in the country and work for a certain number of years if they have been trained locally under the government-funded Support for Education and Training (SET) programme, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has revealed.
While the prime minister did not provide details yet on whether the bond will apply only to SET nurses or how many years the bond will apply for, he indicated that one or two years of service is not enough.
“We have to do — including those who are currently on the programme — we have to do a bonding. We have to do a bonding,” the prime minister said.
“Remember, this programme is hundreds upon hundreds, running into thousands of persons we have trained as nurses and nursing assistants.
“I mean, we spent millions expanding the nursing school, increasing the staff, doing all sorts of things, and we do something for our nurses, nursing students here which people don’t do otherwise in the region.”
He added, “But, heavenly father, I mean if we train you, give you a free or near-free nursing education, we pay you $1,000 a month, conscience must tell you [that] you can’t tell me, well, you’ll do one year or you’ll do two years.
“You’ve got to give me a little bit more than that, man.”
High demand for nurses
Prime Minister Gonsalves acknowledged that a primary reason for introducing the bond for nurses is the “unusually high” demand for healthcare workers worldwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like some other Caribbean nations, has reportedly encountered challenges with local nurses leaving the country to work abroad as demand peaks. Several countries have also hired foreign nurses and healthcare experts to assist as they battled coronavirus waves.
Gonsalves said, “With the COVID, a lot of countries need nurses, so there’s a great demand. Greater than usual.
“But you can’t turn your back. Everybody can’t go and turn their back on we who pay to train them.
“Normally…you had an overabundance, and though there was a big demand, there wasn’t like now there’s a real crazy demand for nurses.”
Maintaining that he does not “begrudge anybody who wants to go overseas and get an opportunity to work and the like”, Gonsalves added, “I wasn’t encumbering the young people, but the circumstances have now changed.”