Study to review CARICOM intra-regional migration of healthcare workers in the Caribbean

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BRAMPTON, Canada — The World Health Organisation (WHO), in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization(PAHO), Regional Office for the Americas, Washington DC, has contracted the consultancy and research firm of Dunn, Pierre, Barnett and Company, Canada Ltd, to conduct a study on the status of current migration trends of health workers in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region and to provide a report that will be used to inform and make recommendations on migration within the health sector of the countries involved.

According to recent published reports, migration of health workers in the public health care system in much of the region is in crisis, lacking the resources to fund hospitals, implement and maintain complex medical procedures, or even to maintain the services of qualified and trained staff. This condition has not been helped in recent years by the heavy recruitment of healthcare workers by international and commercial intermediaries operating out of countries such as the UK, Canada and the USA.

The region will soon face one of the most critical shortages in the labour market of health workers in its history if nothing is done to reverse the trend of low in-migration and high out-migration levels within the Anglo-Caribbean.

According to sources from the PAHO Regional Coordinating office in Barbados, “There is a global shortage of approximately 4.3 million doctors, midwives, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.” It states further that “the undersupply of these practitioners will impact negatively on both the quality and sustainability of health systems in the region especially in the smaller islands in the region”.

According to Justine Pierre, one of the consultants on the project and a director of Dunn Pierre Barnett and Company, “The situation with regard to health care workers in the Caribbean and in particular the countries in the OECS is critical, with many persons opting to leave the region for better working conditions, higher salaries, better job security and even a better mental state of mind.”

He also noted that it was very difficult for most of the regional governments to compete with international recruiting agencies that are pouncing on health care workers.

He continued, “The governments of the region have struggled to contain the migration of health workers in the region, and very few, if any, have established migration policies in place.”
The project will be conducted over a three month period in Jamaica, Belize, Suriname, Trinidad, Guyana, Turks and Caicos Islands and the English-speaking islands of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

It is intended that the outcomes of the survey report will inform regional policy on migration in the Caribbean and contribute to the implementation of the WHO/PAHO policies in the region with regard to the recruitment of health workers.

PAHO currently provides financial support to most of the ministries of health and countries in the region and all health and various medical organisations are being asked to give their full support to the project.

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