Health Minister Bheri Ramsaran yesterday defended his administration’s decision to allow nurses to retake examinations, despite the high failure rates that were highlighted by APNU Shadow Minister of Health Dr. George Norton earlier in the day as the budget debate continued.
Ramsarran during his debate contribution explained that the nurses have to write a number of papers and that the failure rate that has been “touted” by Norton indicates that some fail, but not all. “What they are not telling you is that the system allows three resits and those who might have gotten four papers can resit again.”
“That is the system. We can address it but do we give them one resit? Or two resits? One of the reviews we are looking at is if this is one of the reasons they are not doing their best. When we are having them resit, they still get their stipend. We are compassionate so we give them three resits. We are looking at the details and I want to caution that we should not be misled by the first brush. Many fail some of their papers and a significant amount of highflyers pass everything,” he asserted.
Ramsarran argued that the stipend was small because it was not intended to be a salary. “In some cases, we provide limited spaces in our dormitories.”
Norton had earlier charged that the stipend must be of a “practical value and unless the aim of nurse training is to achieve quality and not quantity, as it appears to be especially of recent, nursing will never be up to acceptable standard.”
Last month, the Guyana Nursing Association (GNA) had made a series of suggestions, which it felt would help alleviate the situation and improve the pass rate of nurses if they were looked at by the MOH. GNA and APNU had blamed the student/teacher ratio.
GNA also said it was not in favour of students being enrolled for nursing who do not fit the stipulated criteria for implementation of the curriculum as this, among other factors was to be blamed for the high failure rate of nursing students.
The Minister also argued that the private nursing schools also had their share of failure rates. “The St. Joseph Mercy Nursing School had similar percentages of passes and failures and this has led us to the conclusion that it might not be the students and we have discovered certain other issues.”
Results from the October examination released during February, revealed that of the 120 students enrolled at the Georgetown School of Nursing who wrote the examination, only 19 were successful, according to APNU and this had led the coalition’s leader David Granger calling for a complete reevaluation of nurse training in order to improve patient care.
Norton in his contribution argued that the nurse training in Guyana has been described as a “severe chronic disease” and that the result of the examinations in the three nursing schools of the Ministry are evidence of serious deficiencies in their training.
“Of the 255 students who entered the 3-year professional nursing programme in 2010 only 120 wrote the final exam and of those only 19 were successful. There was a total failure at the New Amsterdam School of Nursing, no one was successful. Stated more concisely, it can be said that less than 10% of the original intake completed the programme successfully. This catastrophic phenomenon can be described as a waste of scarce resources,” he argued.
According to Norton, the problems cited for the failures were pointed out in his 2012 budget presentation.
“…no one was listening. Neither was anyone listening when it was mentioned by senior officials of the Guyana Nurses Association that the student nurses were best described as ‘weapons of mass destructions’ in the making. The problems of the training of nurses are largely the same today, as it was then. I would now advise the government of how this problem can be solved so that our nursing school can once again be internationally accredited and we will once again produce professional nurses of the highest quality as in the past for health institutions both locally and overseas.”
He proposed a number of recommendations to alleviate the problem, including the reduction of nurses per cohort, the provision of modern audio-visual aids and relevant text books.
The MP also argued that the School of Nursing Personnel should have some input in selecting students for the programme, as some of the students were found by the tutors to be unsuitable for training to become a nurse.
On mental health, Norton argued that suicide is a serious public health issue and the Government “should stop being complacent towards suicide.” While Ramsarran said that is a complex issue and should be on the front burner and that “not only Government’s business but everyone’s business.”
With respect to the significant amount of expired drugs that were discarded last year, Norton said that his party calls on the President to urgently put in place an independent commission of enquiry into the problem. Ramsarran however argued that a large number of the drugs they receive have short shelf lives. Ramsarran also announced that works are currently being done at the Specialty Hospital site at Turkeyen.
“Almost 300 piles have been driven and there are another 200 or 300 piles. ..Monies are being expended, hundreds of millions are being expended.” This contract has attracted controversy both here and in India.
Further, the Health Minister contended that the “pensioners will be able to perform because they have a little `toops’ in their pensions. We must not look at this in isolation, we must at the same time look at their subsidies and we must look at the monies that their grandchildren will be given to go to those better run schools by the Minister of Education.”
Finance Minister Ashni Singh last Monday had announced that one of the measures in the proposed $220 billion budget was a 5% increase in old age pension, taking it to $13,125 from the current $12,500, with effect from May 1.