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Nurses Brain Drain Accelerated By Paycut

Posted By: Marty

Nurses Brain Drain Accelerated By Paycut - 06/18/21 10:30 AM

If you tuned into last night's episode of Uncut on Channel 7, you'll have heard the conversation with Darrell Spencer, the President of the Nurses Association of Belize.

Spencer discussed the nursing shortage, and how the 10% cut in public wages will drive his nursing colleagues to leave Belize for better jobs in other countries.

Tonight, we pick up the conversation in which Spencer was explaining that the developed nations have established a strong retention program for their nurses:

Darrell Spencer - President, Nurses Association of Belize
"They are doing 2 things that our government refuses to do. They dressed up their packages because they realized that nurses are so important to the health system. They provide retention. That is why the nurses don't pack up and come back home."

Jules Vasquez
"The nurses are being attracted by higher salaries."

Darrell Spencer
"Of course."

Jules Vasquez
"And it's only reasonable that they go. They're being offered a high-paying or a good-paying job in a developed country."

Darrell Spencer
"But, that is not the only reason they go. There are quite a number of nurses here in Belize, like myself, who have endured for 30 years, and don't really see going to America as the thing to do. But, ultimately, you become more and more frustrated. So, you decide, you know what, this is not working for me, and you go."

Jules Vasquez
"What frustrates you?"

Darrell Spencer
"I'm a professional for 30 years, Jules, 29, and September's gonna make 30. You come out from school. You get a job. You're a nurse. You have a respected profession. One would want to believe that after 20 years, that you would have a comfortable salary, that you are not living pay check to pay check. You may not have a 2021 car, but a decent little car that can get you from point a to point b. These are the things - that you come out, and you have a house. You can afford a house."

Jules Vasquez
"So, you're saying on a nurse's salary, you can't afford those things. You have to scrape."

Darrell Spencer
"You would have to be paying for all those 20-25 years to get that little house and no majesty of a house. A regular house, at our salary, will take you 15-20 years to pay for. I'm a professional. The world realized that nurses are professionals, and they're short. They say you know what - look at yourself, Jules. Let's paint a scenario. We're short of journalists in Belize. Does your salary go up or down?"

Jules Vasquez
"It should go up. Scare supply creates more demand, creates higher prices."

Darrell Spencer
"But we are different. Our Prime Minister just said you know what is true? Apart from the scarcity, the high demand, and the high prices, we're gonna give you a 10% cut. A lot of nurses have approached me now, the Association now, and the package that is being offered abroad are beginning to look more beautiful."

Jules Vasquez
"So, you feel that we're going to experience a massive brain drain."

Darrell Spencer
"A massive brain drain."

Health Minister On Nurse's Brain Drain

But Minister of Health and Wellness Michel Chebat says that his Ministry is working, despite the current economic situation, to fight that brain drain. Here's how he responded to Darrell Spencer's UNCUT takedown.

Cherisse Halsall
"Minister I don't know if you saw the appearance of Mr. Darrell Spencer the head of the nurses association on uncut last night. The man came on the set with a bukut, he said that's what the government have served to him and the rest of the nurses while incentives to go and nurse else where in the world are excellent. What would you say to that?"

Hon. Michel Chebat - Minister of Health
"Well, you know what, we're living in a certain economic time in this country but I can tell you this government more than any other government has invested in nurses in this country. When we came into the government in the first 4 months, we paid the nurses all the overtime that was owed to them, we understand that they are the front line, we understand that things are difficult and they bare the burden of this and we are not mindless of that. I can tell you for the first time ever, this government through the ministry of health and wellness is offering 50 scholarships for nurses. So, this is a sector of the public health system that we believe in and as time goes by we are going to be improving their terms of service. We cannot compete with the first world, the fact that nurses leave us every year is not new, this is something that is happening to us year after year and what are we doing? We feel it is important to train as many of our people as we can, so that we can sure up our numbers here and so we're taken that as a first step and we're now going to be looking at the terms of service of nurses. I hear then but I want to say to them we are working, it's going to take some time but we're going to get there."

Health Minister on Nurses Coming In

And if Belizean nurses head for greener pastures the country will have to find an alternate solution to staff hospitals with these essential employees.

Considerations for that solution are already being made by the Ministry of immigration. They're waiving the $3,000.00 fee for Filipino nurses' employment permit fee.

But is there any such incentive for the Belizeans? That's what we asked the Minister of Health earlier today.

Hon. Michel Chebat - Minister of Health
"There was a memorandum coming out of the ministry of immigration from last year saying those fees have been waived, I also know they were complaining about this exam that they have to take. Let me tell you this, these nurses have license to operate in Belize until 2022 and the nursing counsel was prepared to give them an extension. So, I don't believe that it is a problem here, the situation is they are getting better pay elsewhere and that is why they are leaving. There was a circular, it is in writing, I do not know what happened there but I cannot see how that was a reason for them leaving."

Cherisse Halsall
"But sir in terms of the concessions being made for the Filipino nurses, Belizeans are now complaining that these people get living allowances, they get these fees waived but where is the comparable advantage for Belizean nurses to stay."

Hon. Michel Chebat
"Well, you know it goes back to the terms of service that we are providing, and I think it is time for us to look at that and we're going to be looking at that. Let me make this clear, the majority of nurses that are leaving, are leaving from the KHMH, which is a managing authority, and which is ran by a board, it is not ran by the ministry of health and wellness. We know it is a situation that will impact the entire country and so as a ministry of health and wellness we have to intervene and to help the process."

Channel 7

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