2008 report drew attention to paucity of skilled nurses, medical specialists in public health sector

Dear Editor,

It was no coincidence. In fact it was more about ‘accidents’. At least that is how the official blurb has tended to treat maternal deaths at GPHC and related facilities, over the last several years.

So that when a medical representative of the recent governance structure attempted an ‘inoffensive’ commentary on the current incidence of such ‘accidents’ the former was clearly oblivious of what (in)action in their time contributed to this palpable faultline.

Reference here is made to a most comprehensive report of a consultancy, contracted by the very administration, which analysed the skills and competencies obtaining in the public health sector at 2008.

The detailed report revealed a discouraging reality of the range of shortages of critical medical specialists in the current establishment. More alarmingly, the report diligently drew attention to the paucity of skilled nurses, and the unhealthy extent to which this category was outnumbered by unskilled counterparts.

Those who studied, and understood the statistics, would have recognised that the particular disproportion resulted from a deliberate policy to reduce the volume of migration of trained nurses from the public health sector, by resorting instead to the provision of a large number of under-trained ‘nursing assistants’; all ‘nursing aides’ and ‘patient-care assistants’ – the last two in the same grade as ‘vehicle driver’ or ‘senior hospital porter’. Doubtful quantity replaced assured quality. The resultant outcome of such expediency could therefore only be a series of emergencies, about which were peddled waning, wanton obfuscations.

Now, however, it is doubtful whether the current Minister of Public Health, to whom a copy of the aforementioned report was made available, has found it at all relevant, that is if at all any of its contents were heeded.

One got a sense of the latter’s insulation when curiously enough on TV, a week or so ago, he pronounced on maternity in relation to breast-feeding. He emphasised – his personal preference to see maternity leave from work extended from three to six months – so that infants can be adequately breast-fed. This was to be compounded by the institution of counterpart paternity leave.

Apart from the fact that the implications for employers seem to have been totally ignored, the Minister appeared not to have apprehended the perception of the aforementioned contesting medical observer that the increase in maternal deaths would likely in turn reduce the opportunities to breast-feed.

Perhaps a question might well be how mothers who have lost their infants, would themselves be nourished; for so far no mention has been made about correcting the unacceptable imbalance in nursing delivery capacity, in particular regard to maternal health.


Yours faithfully,

E B John

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