BVI News

Ministry ignores scholarship offer to train health workers

Antoinette Skelton

The Ministry of Health has effectively turned away financial assistance being offered to develop the struggling public health sector.

The Social Security Board (SSB) is offering scholarships to train locals in health services but, according to SSB Director Antoinette Skelton, the ministry has not taken up the offer.

“You have an entity (the SSB) who says ‘we see that there is a need for help’. But, the help is not being taken. I have no other way to put it,” Skelton said.

She explained: “A few years ago, the SSB started offering nursing scholarships… We went as far as to engage the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the BVI Health Services Authority.”

While speaking in earshot of a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Health, Skelton further said that the SSB recently revised its scholarship policies and that the SSB’s offer still stands.

However, the official from the health ministry declined to respond.

The ministry’s failure to accept assistance comes at a time when management at the state-owned Peebles Hospital has called on government to train more locals in health-related fields to service the chronically understaffed medical facility.

It is said that some departments at the hospital are manned by one person.

Hospital management report that it is has become increasingly difficult to recruit and maintain staff.

Peebles Hospital

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  1. Jahlove says:

    What a shame.

  2. Laura says:

    A nursing shortage is not just an organisational challenge – it has a major negative impact on health care and failure to deal with the shortage will lead to failure to maintain or improve the health care system. Government fails to realise as do many people that Nurses are the main professional component of the ‘front line’ staff and their contribution is recognised as essential to meeting development goals and delivering safe and effective care. Thus a lack of qualified people is hitting many public services hard everywhere around the world, BUT if SSB is offering an alternative to government and it is not being utilised, what are we saying to the state of our health care system? Is it not important?

    When you don’t have the right staff levels, patients don’t get the quality and sometimes it means people get sub-optimal outcomes thus resulting in sometime avoidable deaths.

    When you see an experienced nurse who knows what they’re doing, it’s quite amazing, they know the wards inside out and make the department run so much more efficiently. We need to strengthen and look at ways of getting my younger people in to follow the path of the older nurses, learning from them before they retire and become obsolete.

    But it doesn’t matter how many nurses or doctors are attained, we have to look at not just getting people in, it’s about keeping them. Job shortage is at a critical level now and Government need to look at solutions for the Short and Long Term. In the Short – revising/increasing the pay bands current staff, sign-on bonuses (get retired nurses in for a fixed fee), relocation coverage (where there is not a supply/demand relocate the nurses to where there is a higher need), retention of nurses begins with how the organization does or does not value the staff (hold meetings and find out what the nurses need verses what they want (in other words, keep what you have happy).

    In the Long- create a competitive pay package for new recruits, look at the idea of housing coverage (similar to dormitories for newbies), Drum up the initiative of getting retired/nurses who can no longer manage the physical demands of the job to educate new nurses, establish an outreach programs with students form different schools to keep the interest burning (To ensure a continuous robust pool of nursing students, children must be reached earlier than high school, so perhaps career days at primary schools would be best), reintroduce intensive training programs for nurses in specialties (midwifery etc).

    There are a few quick fixes to this problem, but action must be taken now or else it will reach to a point of no return. Once you set a bad image, it is usually harder to turn it around. Invest the money that’s needed, train our people, pay the people that are already here and get the Health service up to par.

  3. Political Observer (PO) says:

    It is admirable that the SSB sees a bleeding issue and is willing to commit resources to stop the bleeding and stabilize it. It is also a great example of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Though it cost over $100M, took over 10 years and over several administrations to complete, the new Peebles Hospital was a visionary and vital project for the continual growth and development of the BVI.

    Modern health facilities and access to affordable and available healthcare is critical to attaining a high quality of life and standard of living in the BVI. But it needs more than a modern facility to meet this ideal. It needs staffing, ie, doctors, physician assistants, nurses, laboratory technicians, dieticians, X-ray techs, radiologists……etc to support the ideal.

    However, there is a chronic shortage in many of these positions; a deficiency that needs to be addressed soonest. Additionally, the hospital needs additional equipage/equipment to make it a complete and functional facility. Moreover, tourism is 1/2 of the economic pillar. Consequently, the territory needs high quality, capable…….etc health facilities to address any health assitance/care our visitors may need. This would make the territory a more competitive tourist destinations. The BVI has a myriad of needs in its bucket list but healthcare must be a top priority in the bucket. Improving healthcare or airport extension?

    Particularly, the staffing shortages (nurses…..etc) at Peebles Hospital needs an urgent action plan to arrest it. Some other bloggers have presented worthwhile ideas to address the problem. A consensus is that HLSCC needs to step up to the plate and in the fore front to train health professionals. This could add more value to HLSCC.

    Thus, what is leaving me scratch my bald head is why SSB offer, if true, for scholarships was not jumped upon like white on rice or fly on s….t. Ms. Skelton, the long-term Director of Social Security, has a good reputation and is a straight shooter so there is probably high confidence in what she is saying. Nonetheless, we need to hear from the MHSS, MEC and BVIHSA. Do all scholarships have to go through the MEC and if so why? If so what is the rationale for it?

    Anyway, per Ms. Skelton, the SSB offer still stands. Mr. Premier (Doc-medical) you need to leap on this issue and make things happen. Do not accept any lame excuses for inaction. While you are at it, take hold of the MEC, MHSS, BVIHSA and HLSCC and get the medical professional training bolting out of the gate, if there any seriousness in making things happen.

  4. Albion says:

    It is a laudable move – but also an odd one. SSB doesn’t hold funds for its own account – it holds the pension and disability funds on trust for all the people who have paid in. Presumably the scholarship funds would need to come out of retained earnings on its investments of those trust funds.

  5. Island man says:

    This is really sad to see the interest of our health system is ignored.

  6. Interested says:

    I propose that we tap into the nursing resources that we have,In the short therm.There are several nurses who retired young for many reasons including dissatisfaction with how they were being treated,
    Recruit them and make viable offers to motivate them to come back for a time at least to fill the vacant gaps.
    The state of healthcare at Peebles needs the boost urgently.

  7. Interested says:

    As a recent patient discharged just a week ago,I am deeply concerned.

  8. Hmmm says:

    If the SSB can’t organize itself to provide scholarships why would they blame the Ministry of Health?

  9. The Real Boo says:

    …and no one can see what the problen is? Plain and simple incompetence and apathy. This is ehat you get for hir8ng suposedly competent management…waste of time.

  10. Responsibility is like a badword to these leaders says:

    Perhaps the ministry officials are afraid of giving more scholarships since the students don’t come back and when they do they expect the sun moon and stars before they put in any time working in the system.
    The leaders of the land need to teach them about nation-building. Its not just a phrase, its a strategy for development that is based on people taking responsibility for the direction if progress for the good of the nation, that means thinking about the future generations and his they will take up the mantle to continue building on the foundation of those before them.

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