Minister-designate of Health, Kweku Agyeman-Manu, has revealed that a lot of Western countries among others, are chasing Ghana for nurses.
The Health Minister in President Nana Akufo-Addo’s first term made the revelation during his vetting by the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Wednesday, 10 February 2021 after a member of the committee, Mr James Agalga, demanded to know why Ghana, despite not having enough health professionals, exported some nurses to Trinidad & Tobago as well as Barbados.
“I will say bilateral relations for diplomacy, just like we receive Chinese and other foreigners, I believe our President stretched his hand to also help our neighbours who needed some support. That is the significant thing”, Mr Agyeman-Manu mentioned as the primary reason.
According to him, Ghana “took inventory of the types of nurses they needed and we said to ourselves: ‘we can let go some quantity that will not harm the system that we have”.
Secondly, he said, “the ministry itself, in our new HR policy, we are thinking of retraining some of our young people to even export them to help run the facilities and the type of human resource that we have”.
“We have close to 90 health training institutions that churn out 22,000 young people as nurses, certificate and diploma students. We have to employ them into our system. If we continue that way for the next five years, our hospitals may be full with nurses that we don’t need”, he warned.
“As I sit her, when we were talking about doctor: patient ratio, we didn’t talk about nurse: patient ratio. We have exceeded the WHO limits. Then, I ask myself: can Finance Ministry continue to provide financial clearance? Can the budget soak it for the numbers that we train? So, if we are talking about Ghana Beyond Aid, why don’t we retrain and meet the demands of those outside so that we can probably support some of them to go and work outside and bring home foreign currency?”
“It’s one of the things we are trying to test to see how viable that can be, which is the reason why we tried to stretch our hands to Barbados. And there are demands; immediately we finished the Barbados thing, Jamaica, Germany, The Netherlands, UK; all of them are even coming but we’ve held back because of the fear that we may deplete our resources unnecessarily until we train and retrain and we get larger numbers that will make us export without causing any serious harm to our system”, he told the committee.
On Thursday, 30 July 2020, ninety-five Ghanaian nurses (49 women and 46 men), arrived in Barbados on an Azores Airlines chartered flight for a two-year contract.
They were to help the Caribbean country’s healthcare system.
The Ghanaian nurses were met by Barbadian government officials including the Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, newly-installed Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator at the time, Lisa Cummins and Executive Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland.
“These nurses will be working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as well as the primary healthcare sector, that is the Geriatric Hospitals and polyclinics,” the Barbadian health minister said, adding, however: “But that is not the only thing that we have to deal with as a Ministry of Health”.
Lieutenant Colonel Bostic said: “We have the remainder of the healthcare sector to take care of even though we are fighting this battle [COVID-19] and your presence here today, and certainly when you start to work in a couple of weeks’ time, would enhance our capacity to deliver the quality of healthcare services that we have been doing for years, and that we will continue to do, and even though we have to divert some of our efforts to fighting COVID-19, we are now in a better position to deal with the remainder of the healthcare system in Barbados”.
Speaking on behalf of her colleague Ghanaian nurses, Lorraine Atopley said: “Thank you very much for welcoming us and greetings from President Nana Akufo-Addo and all the human resources personnel from the Ministry of Health [in Ghana].”
The team, she said, hope to have good interactions with the patients for the next two or more years.
“We promise to work hard to deliver good service to everyone and be at peace with everyone.”
In November 2019, the Foreign Ministers of Ghana and Barbados, on behalf of the governments and peoples of their respective countries, signed an agreement for the recruitment of a total of 120 nurses from Ghana to complement the staffing needs of the island nation.
The agreement was signed on Friday, 15 November 2019 at Ghana’s Jubilee House, when the Prime Minister of Barbados, Her Excellency Mia Mottley, paid a courtesy call on the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, as part of her official visit.
The objective of the agreement was to provide the framework for the provision of the nurses by the Republic of Ghana to Barbados, taking cognisance of the existing commitment of Barbados to accepted international workforce policies and practices as well as the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Code of Ethics for nurses.
The scope of services and responsibilities include Ghana providing registered nurses to Barbados with a level of expertise as agreed to by both countries, with Barbados providing Ghanaian nurses safe and secure working conditions for professional practice, medical treatment where needed.
Remuneration is commensurate with the terms and conditions of Barbadian local registered Nurses. Barbados is also to provide professional support to Ghanaian nurses to comply with the guidelines and rules of the Nursing Council of Barbados.
A total of 150 short-listed candidates underwent interviews from which 120 were to have been chosen.
The qualified nurses possess a minimum of three years’ experience, with specialities in the following areas: critical care, cardiac catheterisation, emergency room, operating theatre, ophthalmology.
It will be recalled that on 15 June 2019, during an official visit to Barbados, as part of activities to promote the declaration of 2019 as the Year of Return, President Akufo-Addo, in principle, agreed to a request by Prime Minister Mottley to send some nurses to work in a number of medical facilities in Barbados.
Addressing a press conference in the aftermath of the bilateral discussions, and with Barbados facing an acute nursing shortage, the Barbadian Prime Minister stated that “we have indicated that we are searching for just under 400 nurses, so it is not a small number, and we really do believe that this is a wonderful opportunity of co-operation between our two countries.”
In addition, she noted that there was also an initial promise to secure the nurses and provide joint education programmes going forward, all in an attempt to secure Barbados’ healthcare sector.
For his part, President Akufo-Addo indicated that “we have a surplus of nurses in Ghana, and placing them all in our public health system is one of my headaches. There have been a lot (of nurses) produced, which, for several years, we have not been able to do anything with.”
He continued, “So, I am going back. I will be back in Accra on Monday, and, the week after, the Prime Minister will hear from me on this matter of nurses.”