Fellow Citizens & Residents:
Since last Thursday, November 24, 2016, much of the local media chatter has been consumed by discussions surrounding a letter (dated July 29, 2016) that originated from the Ministry of Health, concerning the recruitment of 17 nurses from The Philippines with the aid of a Suriname-based recruitment services provider. The general tone and tenor of the public discourse on this matter are causes for concern on two levels. The first is the obvious lack of professionalism by the civil servant(s) who violated the regulations governing Public Service (Recruitment and Appointment of Officers) Code which require an oath of office and secrecy or affirmation of office and secrecy on appointment to an office in the public service. It is an obvious lack of professionalism by civil servants who broke the basic rules of work place ethics by publicizing confidential information. This is an abhorrent act, which should never be condoned or tolerated in any work place – be it the private or public sector. Yet, it is the second level of concern with which the Ministry of Health and, by extension, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis take greater issue, for the following reasons:
1) The decision to recruit nurses from The Philippines is not a new practice by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis. To be precise, Government has been in the habit of recruiting nurses for years. In the past five years alone, starting in 2011 during the former Labour Administration, a total of 27 foreign nurses have been hired. These nurses were recruited from countries such as Nigeria, the USA, Cuba, Taiwan, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Guyana, Santo Domingo, and The Philippines.
2) All foreign nurses who have been recruited to work in our Federation provide specialist skill sets currently lacking among our local nursing fraternity, especially Oncology, Haemodialysis, Intensive Care and Mental Health.
3) The recruitment of foreign nurses with specialised skill sets is meant to build capacity among our local nurses and in time, have knowledge transfer so that the foreign nurses can be repatriated. This system works. For example, it was nurse Marie Manibog from the Philippines – who is no longer here with us – assisted greatly in 2012 in the establishment of the Haemodialysis Unit at JNF, a Department that is now ably headed by a local Assistant Nurse Manager. We anticipate similar results with the two newly recruited nurses for Oncology – the newest Department at JNF – for which another local Nurse Manager will be the Head.
4) Based on Government’s experience over the years, it has been discovered that nurses from The Philippines are top quality, hard- working performers. Hence, the reason for more Filipino nurses being employed than their counterparts in other countries.
5) Government’s recruitment of foreign medical personnel is not limited to nurses. We have, for years, also employed foreign doctors – a large majority of whom have been recruited from Cuba – and bring specialist skills to the Federation that are either absent or in short supply locally. This is what sensible Governments do to ensure that their people receive the best care possible, in spite of limited local resources.
6) The salary packages being provided to the nurses recruited from The Philippines thus far (i.e. 12 out of 17), is in no way out of the ordinary. Every one of these nurses possesses a comprehensive Bachelor’s degree in nursing, plus post-graduate certification in their area of specialty. As such, they are paid at K33, the normal benchmark for civil servants with a Bachelor’s degree. It should also be noted, that the matter of a housing allowance of EC$500 that has been paid to the nurses is also in keeping with the
Statutory Rules and Orders of the Civil Service, in particular, No. 8 of 2014, Section 38, sub-section 8: Overseas Appointments and Travel Arrangements which clearly state that foreign workers
recruited by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis must be provided with accommodations at the Government’s expense. I must emphasize that these SRO’s would have been passed into
law by the previous Administration in 2014. Therefore, this Team Unity Government is simply carrying out the letter and spirit of the civil service regulations that are already in place.The Federal Government considers it rather unfortunate that so much time and energy has been consumed with this issue of foreign nurses’recruitment that has – for the most part – been deliberately and hypocritically slanted to achieve political advantage and disgruntlement. The public deserves to know the truth regarding
Government’s need to occasionally recruit foreign medical personnel to meet the specialised health care needs of our citizens and residents.As we add more services, such as an Oncology Department for cancer treatment, and a new Mental Health Day Treatment Centre, it is obvious that our need for specialised skills would increase. In the case of the latter, it must be noted that there are no more than four(4) mental health trained nurses in the Federation, to serve a population of 50,000 people. It is obvious that where required skills are lacking, the Government has an obligation to recruit the requisite workers while we train our local cadre of nurses to can meet the growing needs of our people. It takes 4-5 years to train specialist nurses and the necessary academic foundation must be in place. To do nothing would be irresponsible. It is the Government’s greatest wish that more of our own people would take stock of the urgently needed medical skills and seek out opportunities for further training and qualification in these areas. In this way, we will do much to advance our competitive advantage as a people while we build capacity in critical areas of health care delivery.
Thank you for listening.