Jamaica Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has indicated that more than 70 nurses at the University Hospital of the West Indies have been lured by overseas recruiting agencies since January.

The roundup of the nurses by foreign countries has had a devastating blow to the public health system and has added pressure to the remaining staff at the hospital, Tufton said at a Jamaica House press conference on Sunday evening.

He admitted that the countries that recruited them were paying much more attractive salaries.

Tufton said the health ministry has increased the hiring of staff in the South East Regional Health Authority, which covers St Catherine, St Thomas, Kingston and St Andrew, with 43 additional temporary doctors being approved for employment.

Four of them will receive contracts to start working on March 1.

Two hundred and thirty-six nurses, assistant nurses, and patient care assistants are to be hired and deployed within the region in two weeks’ time.

Over at the Western Regional Health Authority, 18 additional temporary doctors have been approved for hiring with six to commence working as soon as today (Monday).

The regional authority oversees St James, Westmoreland, Hanover, and Trelawny.

Some 42 nurses, assistant nurses, and patient care assistance are being hired with some 14 to be interviewed on March 1 as well.