Nurse shortage forces cut in operating hours at Chapelton Hospital Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

As the Government focuses on transforming the heath sector, Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, has said plans are in place to address the current shortage of nurses and other medical professionals at some local health facilities.

A critical shortage of nurses has forced the ministry to scale back plans to operate the recently refurbished Chapelton Community Hospital in Clarendon as a 24-hour facility.

Reopened in 2022, the hospital has been unable to maintain a full 24-hour service, due to the shortage of healthcare workers.

In a related case, it was revealed at a recent meeting of the St Thomas Municipal Corporation (STMC) that there was a shortage of nurses in St Thomas, which has been affecting services like curative dressings and community outreach initiatives.

Speaking specifically to the issue at the Chapelton Community Hospital in Clarendon, Tufton admitted during a post-Cabinet media briefing last week that the hospital is currently only offering essential services for 10 hours per day.

“One of the biggest bottlenecks of the (Jamaican) health system is the retention of healthcare workers. We lose them very quickly as we train them, and indeed, it is affecting the quality of service,” Tufton said.

Dr Christopher Tufton

The minister emphasised that the shortage of healthcare workers is a significant issue affecting service levels, including the waiting time for medical care at health facilities across the island.

“A lot of times when people wait they may not know that some of that may be linked to not having enough nurses when they are inpatient in hospitals, not having enough people to tend to them, so they have to wait because people have to work overtime and there are shortages,” the minister asserted.

“In fact, I will say that we are even impacted right now… at Chapelton (Community) Hospital, where we are (supposed to be) offering a 24-hour service, right now we are going up to 10 (hours per day) for the essential service, and it is not because we don’t want to go up to 24 (hours), (but) because we are having a challenge with nurses,” Tufton explained.

However, he announced that the Government is taking steps to address the critical shortage through a $2.5 billion scholarship fund, dubbed The Barry Wint Memorial Scholarship.

The fund is to provide $500 million annually over a five-year period for students pursuing studies in nursing and the wider medical field as part of a training and retention strategy for critical healthcare professionals.

Tufton stressed that investing in people is crucial, as “no matter how… many hospitals or health centres you build, no matter how you add services, if the people (workers) are not there… it is not going to happen.”

Other areas of training the scholarships are to cater to include public health, medical technology, epidemiology, heath records management, hospital care management, information systems for health, pharmacy, dentistry and health economics.

“Hopefully, what this will do is… it will show the population (that) we need more than just doctors and nurses to run a hospital,” stated Tufton.