This week is designated International Nurses Week. I take this opportunity to congratulate all our hardworking nurses in Guyana and abroad who are working beyond the call of duty to provide medical care and attention to our population.
It hardly needs stating, or for that matter restating the obvious. Our nurses, like our teachers are woefully underpaid and to a large extent have been subsidizing the health care and delivery costs by accepting low salaries.
Yet nurses and teachers are two of the most important professionals in the fostering and nurturing of a healthy and educated society.
I believe it is time for our nurses to be treated with some more respect by the relevant authorities. I can hear in the background some noises to the effect that our economy in not in a position to offer a better remuneration. This may be true to a point but such arguments fly in the face of reason and logic when consideration is taken of the fact that our politicians in the higher echelons earn in excess of a million dollars per month in salaries and pensions not to mention the other benefits and allowances they also receive. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
With the anticipated surge in revenues from oil and gas, the readjustments to the public service remuneration structure should be given active consideration especially as it relates to our nurses and our teachers.
Moreover, other non-salary benefits such as duty-free concessions and subsidized housing should also be considered.
The cost of doing nothing to enhance the working and living conditions of our nurses can be substantial. For one thing, it could lead to a further exodus of our nurses to the Caribbean, Britain, Canada and the United States where a significant number of our nurses migrate on an annual basis. I challenge the Ministry of Public Health to conduct a survey on the attrition rate of nurses including those on contract who opted to repay their contractual obligations. I am sure the findings of such a survey would be alarming.
Nurses, especially those who completed their contractual obligations, should be provided with special incentives to remain and serve. Apart from duty concessions and housing, scholarships should be offered to pursue higher education in the field of medicine at the University of Guyana or any other approved university.