SIMILAR to their Trinidad counterparts, many of Tobago’s healthcare workers have been enticed to migrate by the potential for professional advancement. President of the TT Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) Idi Stuart told Newsday that he was aware of the situation, linking the migrations to the very attractive remuneration packages being offered by developed countries, mainly the UK, USA and Canada.
One nurse, who wished to stay anonymous, told Newsday her decision to leave for England in July 2019 was not an easy decision. She previously worked under contract at the Scarborough General Hospital.
“The decision to migrate was a very difficult one, especially to know that I left my husband and two girls behind. But I had an aim and my husband agreed, we made the decision together. I cried many nights when I first came. I wanted to give up but with good support and encouragement from my dad, sister and husband, I stuck to it.
"Now I am preparing for my family to migrate to the UK.”
She said the opportunities for promotions could not be ignored.
“There was no progress under the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) for nurses. If you apply for courses, you are not getting chosen, the heads chose who they are close to.”
She said she worked with the TRHA for eight years without any job stability.
“I was eight years under TRHA and still on two-year contract. At times you couldn’t even speak out because of fear of victimisation. If you talk, someone will always remind you that you’re on contract. As nurses we’re not respected – we had to protest for wages and what is owed to us.
“There was no progress with personal life. When I look at my colleagues in Trinidad that I trained with, they were way more advanced and had permanent contracts."
She said she does not regret making the tough decision to continue her career abroad.
“I have learnt so much – my attitude towards caring has changed. When I sit down and look back, we do not treat people well in healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago, we do not respect persons' wishes. I only realised it when I started here. Our attitude towards patients is really not the best, only when you are in a position like I am in you will understand what I am saying.”
She said the working conditions in the UK are way better than in TT.
“Your money is paid on time. You get to do continuous development. The staffing-patient ratio is much better. Safety is high importance. There is no favouritism here.”
She praised the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in raising the bar for the sector
“Unlike the nursing council in TT, after three years of working in the UK as a nurse the NMC do a revalidation for nurses. You show what have you been doing to uplift yourself as a nurse, the courses you have undertaken, the errors you have made – so by doing this, nurses always keep abreast of modern developments regarding care.”
She said any healthcare professionals thinking of migrating should "come with an open mind willing to unlearn what you have learnt."
She added, "Customer service is important to healthcare here in the UK...it’s hard work but fun – you learn a whole lot. I want to remind them to be strong-willed. Don’t forget where you come from, because there is a saying here that nurses from TT are great nurses.
"In the UK, you cannot discriminate, everyone is equal and you see them as human beings, no matter their sex, age, colour or ethnicity, whether straight, gay or otherwise.”
Stuart told Newsday nurses are merely seeking betterment.
“We can’t blame them, they’re getting much better offers internationally," he said. "In fact, the bulk of them are going to England, probably about 80 per cent while ten per cent are going to the US and ten per cent Canada. A few others are going to Saudi Arabia and other places.”
He warned that Tobago is losing its most experienced nurses and midwives.
“We would continue to see a degradation of the quality of healthcare throughout TT, but particularly in Tobago, because of the catchment of persons. If you lose ten nurses, which happened just last year from the Accident and Emergency Department of Tobago, you have lost a real wealth of specialised skills that really and truly would redound to the detriment of persons in Tobago.”
He said nurses in the National Health Service in England are guaranteed a pension once they work for ten years in the system.
“In TT, the country of their birth, the country that taught them this profession, is unwilling to grant them a pension.”
He added: “When we vote persons into office, these persons are going to be holding these offices in some cases four years, in some cases five years as a member of Parliament. They are guaranteed a pension for life, and they are guaranteed employment for a four-five-year period, and they are turning around and telling you the nurse and midwives who have placed them there, that you do not deserve four or five years or permanency or pension.
"It doesn’t make sense from the association’s point of view.”