The blog this week is based on a report by Ms. Peggy DaSilva, Chair of the Caribbean Regional Nursing Body (RNB). It is a follow up in reference to her comment made in the April 9 Blog, Celebrating 2020 World Health Day - Supporting Nurses and Midwives - in a time of Crisis. In a report covering a range of issues, Ms. DaSilva has sourced data and responses from nursing bodies in the 15 CARICOM Member States and 5 Associate Members. It is evident that the RNB is a vibrant regional enterprise that represents a critical force on the frontline of the fight against COVID 19. GOFAD joins in the well-deserved commendations for the dedicated efforts of our nurses. The CARICOM COVID-19 Dashboard tracker, places in context the spread of novel coronavirus throughout the region. The tracker on April 30 shows that there are 1177 confirmed cases, 62 deaths and 337 recoveries. Jamaica has the highest rates including 396 confirmed cases, 8 deaths and 29 recoveries.
The CARICOM region has been plagued by a number of challenges that have serious negative effects on the functioning and sustainability of health systems in general, nursing, in particular. These are not limited to migration trends that have shown a significant brain drain related to the experienced and qualified nurses. They also have implications for the quality of leadership among the nursing profession in the region. The World Health Organization (WHO) State of the World’s Nursing 2020 Report has underscored the critical role of nurses towards the achievement of universal health coverage. Nurses have always been and will continue to be central to the health systems in spite of new and emerging technologies and other modalities in the management of client systems. The growth of new and emerging infections, exacerbated by the Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) as we have seen in the case of COVID 19, has intensified the prevention, care and essential services demanded of nurses.
WHO declared 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife with a call for governments to invest more in Nursing. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the critical importance of the need for such investment. The global economic challenges affecting countries, especially small and middle to low income ones like ours in the Caribbean, are projected by the CDB and IMF, as well as our local experts to have a serious and debilitating impact on the economy and workforce. The epidemiological data and trend analysis associated with the current pandemic predict a potential second and third wave. In these circumstances, the economic and human resource impact will be especially challenging for CARICOM member states, especially if the need for additional resources required for effective management of those who are critically ill becomes more pronounced.
The immediate challenges faced by the nursing profession in the Caribbean have persisted over a long period of time. COVID 19 has however brought them into sharp focus. Based on a sample of responses from a cross section of CARICOM States the following have emerged:
There are other dislocations confronting nurses that need to be urgently addressed. These include:
The Regional Nursing Body has developed a Strategic Plan for Nursing and Midwifery (2020-2024). It was finalized and presented to the Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD) in September 2019. Many issues contained in that plan require urgent implementation. Among them is the need to increase the number of nursing graduates, ensuring that they find jobs, are adequately remunerated and retained in the health system. Specifically mentioned in the Plan are the needs for:
While COVID-19 has placed a strain on the healthcare system as more resources are funneled toward caring for coronavirus patients, nurses and other health professionals still need to pay attention to the essential services. Maybe, the Caribbean might wish to consider paying homage to our nurses and others on the frontline by dedicating a time and day when the entire region would collectively pause, toot their horns, wave , applaud, and symbolize in whatever way, the importance we ascribe to these valiant soldiers on the battle field to save lives and livelihoods of us all. This gesture would at least bring the countries on the Region -- physical distancing together -- in line with engendering a spirit of "CARICOM as a Community for All".
Eddie Greene and Peggy DaSilva