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."
"The nurses are being attracted by higher salaries."
"And it's only reasonable that they go. They're being offered a high-paying
or a good-paying job in a developed country."
"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."
"What frustrates you?"
"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."
"So, you're saying on a nurse's salary, you can't afford those things. You
have to scrape."
"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?"
"It should go up. Scare supply creates more demand, creates higher prices."
"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
"So, you feel that we're going to experience a massive brain drain."
"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
"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
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
"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."