Migration of health care practitioners came up as a contentious issue at recent meeting of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States health minsters in the BVI.
According to the Health Minister Dr. Wheatley , one of the key points discussed “robustly” during the sessions was the migration and recruitment of health practitioners from OECS countries.
Wheatley acknowledged that the British Virgin Islands is one of the beneficiaries of the migration and stated that the Council looked at different ways to share the expertise of healthcare practitioners among OECS member states.
The problem appears to be that healthcare employers in higher paid locations with a better standard of living are often able to obtain employees from poorer locations that have already paid for several years of training for their employees.
The same phenomenon exists worldwide, with nations like the Philippines exporting thousands of nurses to higher wage countries like the US or UK where it is very expensive to train nurses and doctors. Likewise, numerous medical doctors from India and other countries emigrate to countries where doctors are better paid than in India.
Honourable Wheatley said, “The question is now, how do we keep persons in the region so it would not be like St. Vincent and the Grenadines or St. Lucia is losing persons, but instead they are sharing their expertise with somebody. That was one of the salient points we took away from the conference.”
Minister Wheatley said that there is a need for deeper and wider collaboration among states in terms of what their needs are and that the meetings looked at the different expertise and best practices from each nation.
“I have learnt so much from the other countries about how they tackle problems that exist here, all in the name of getting better healthcare for our people both primary and tertiary,” the Minister added.
Exact details of what the ministers propose to do was not revealed in the BVI press release. Would the richer members agree to subsidize the training of health care professionals by poorer members, or would they offer health care that requires a high level of skill to residents of other member jurisdictions?
Meanwhile, Director General of the OECS His Excellency, Dr. Didacus Jules reiterated Wheatley’s point on the need for collaboration. Dr. Jules noted that most of the discussions at the two meetings centred on how the region can come together to better serve the people and improve healthcare.
The OECS Director General said the PPS Meeting focused heavily on pooling the procurement of medicine and medical supplies in the OECS to pay at a cheaper rate, and added that the OECS is seeking to transition to a position where everything is pooled.
“Whatever governments require that can be delivered more cost-effectively to them via pooling of the requirements across the OECS we can provide. It was a very important meeting because the back-to-back meetings allowed us to look at the needs of the health systems in the OECS and see how that can be aligned to real improvements in the quality of medical services available across the OECS,” Dr. Jules said.
Additionally, Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs in St. Lucia, Moses Jn. Baptiste said the meeting was fruitful as countries with lived experiences could share so that others from the sub-region can benefit.
Baptiste said, “Our meetings were very frank, very upfront and we looked at the problems in the OECS squarely and we tried our very best to have a plan of action which would cause our various issues to be looked at in the coming months and in the coming years.”
No details of the plan of action formed at the meeting were released at time of writing.
Source: BVI Press Release.