President of the Registered Nurses Association (RNA) Idi Stuart says he agrees with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh that TT is facing a shortage of nurses and doctors, warning such a shortage could be fatal if left unaddressed.
During the Prime Minister's post-Cabinet media briefing on Monday, Deyalsingh said there were adequate beds in place to accommodate an increase in infections, but there may not be enough trained medical staff.
"There aren't hundreds of nurses and doctors out there we can just bring on. Our medical personnel are under tremendous pressure. We cannot run a hospital at 100 per cent capacity. We have to take a break."
Speaking with Newsday, Stuart said while there may have been a surplus of doctors and nurses before the pandemic in 2020, these workers were absorbed by the parallel healthcare system set up for covid19 patients, leading to what he described as a "severe shortage" of trained medical staff.
He also said that over the past few months factors such as retirement, migration and on-the-job stresses have contributed to a decrease in the availability of nurses.
"This has placed an extreme strain on the human resource, because during that same period, (pandemic) training came to a halt because all schools are closed.
"So you would have normally have two batches of nurses graduating last year, that was put on pause. They would have had their local and regional exams and their nursing council exams: that is on hold, and then that still has not been completed to date.
"So now it's over a year and four months we have not had that normal replenishing of workers in the health sector, particularly nursing personnel."
Stuart said in addition to a shortage of basic nurses, TT was had a high demand for specialist nurses, and a lack of skilled personnel could lead to an increasing covid19 mortality rate .
"An increase in numbers will give you an increase in death rate, but more so when you don't have the numbers of nurses you'd like, and trained nurses at that. You cannot expect them to perform at the same level as a ten-year Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse.
"They simply don't have the experience. So they will not be able to save someone's life, as an experienced nurse would."
Stuart said the lack of response to repeated calls for the government to train adequate ICU nurses and attract enough people to the profession also contributed to the current difficulties. The only option left for the government, he said, was to seek help from other Caribbean countries.