If Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has his way, nurses would be able to work in Jamaica for part of the year and in the United States for the remainder of the year.
Dr Tufton says flexible contracts enabling Jamaican nurses to earn higher salaries abroad while maintaining their employment in Jamaica could be part of the solution to the migration of nurses, which has increased since the pandemic.
“We need to embrace the concept of flexible work contracts. I see the day when a nurse can work for five months in Miami and seven months in Jamaica, and I see no problem with the system allowing that. The rules would obviously have to change,” Dr Tufton said.
Speaking at the Masters of Medicine conference in Kingston last Thursday, the health minister said the motivation for working and the rules under which individuals worked, have changed dramatically since the pandemic.
He suggested that the motivation for health care professionals migrating was economic and that many would stay in Jamaica if ways could be explored for them to work part-time and earn better salaries in the US.
Dr Tufton said he has started a dialogue between the Nursing Council of Jamaica and equivalent bodies in the US as to how they can recognise the qualifications of nurses in both countries.
He also expressed support for suitably qualified nurses writing prescriptions, despite the opposition of some doctors.
“I am now championing the cause for prescriptive rights for advanced nursing practitioners, as happens in other countries. I know a lot of doctors don’t want it,” Dr Tufton said.
“They (the doctors) may feel that authority should reside with a doctor…They may feel that the nurses are not trained enough. But, I can tell you that advanced nursing practitioners way up in the bush (rural areas) oftentimes write prescriptions based on a conversation with the doctor in a town centre,” the Minister noted, adding that he would like to make this practice official.
Dr Tufton admitted that it was a challenge to make changes in the health sector.
“The public health system is very territorial. [Stakeholders] are very guarded in protecting their authority and their legitimacy to offer solutions, even at the risk of delayed care”, he noted.