The nursing programme offered by the Ministry of Public Health was long positioned to yield successful results. This is according to former Minister of Health under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) regime, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran.
However, following on the heels of the outcome of the most recent sitting of the Professional Nurses State Final Examination, which revealed dismal performances, Dr. Ramsarran is questioning whether the enormous efforts that the PPP/C Government had employed were sustained.
“We are no longer in power, so I don’t know if what we started was continued. Lots of groundwork was done…I don’t know what would have happened and what the present policy is.”
There are reports that under the PPP/C regime, a massive number of students were accepted by the Ministry for training. This at one point, an official revealed, amounted to in excess of 200 students in a single classroom.
The intake then, the official told this publication, was too tremendous when the complement of staff was taken into consideration.
But according to Dr. Ramsarran, an increase intake of students was warranted because “we were building more hospitals and we needed more nurses and doctors. If you are building more hospitals you will need more nurses and doctors.”
He however noted that while there were challenges that were observed during his tenure, moves were made to address these.
“They were identified and they were being addressed…it was a work in progress. More qualified people were being attracted to nursing…it was not just being looked at as employment but as a passion,” related Dr. Ramsarran, even as he asserted that there exists a plan of action, which should be in the possession of the Public Health Ministry, to substantiate his claims.
“Extensive work was done to address the challenges we found,” the Former Health Minister quipped.
As such Dr. Ramsarran yesterday asked, “Did the quality improvement we started go on?
For example, we were supposed to attract better staff as teachers, but did that go on? We need to check that, I don’t know what happened after we left power…”
Moreover, the former Minister of Health asserted “the mistakes that are being made now I am not responsible for nor is our party [PPP].”
“I know the PPP had done a lot…we had people come in and check our programme with the help of the Pan American Health Organisation PAHO and other universities – centres of excellences. I’d supposed there were many improvements since I’ve been out of the system,” said Dr. Ramsarran, as he reiterated that among the deliberate moves of the Ministry under his tenure was to ensure that the individuals entering the nursing programme “were more and more qualified in terms of CXC.”
In fact, he spoke of the nursing programme being reviewed by top nursing officials drawn from both the Caribbean and Canada.
“These are policy issues, and in our time we tried to address these, including the quality of [student] nurses coming in, although there were still some provisions to assist those who passionately wanted to do nursing but had some difficulties. For example, they might come in with one subject missing, but they had to get it done within a certain period of time,” Dr. Ramsarran explained.
Added to this, he revealed “We had so many people wanting to go to the nursing school…so we started a night school as any matured environment does. Nursing doesn’t only have to be done in the day. That was among some of the things we did, and at the same time the curriculum was reviewed…under the aegis of PAHO, and they did a review of the bank of questions too,” Dr. Ramsarran insisted.
He recalled that even though there was an increased intake and a simultaneous move to enhance the quality of nurses, there was “quite a furore.” But according to Dr. Ramsarran, since the Ministry under the former regime was determined to realise its goal, “we moved [some] nursing classes into Kingston, into a building that is well cut-up internally for classrooms.”
According to Dr. Ramsarran, the Ministry had first utilised the Fort Street, Kingston, Georgetown building to facilitate its Medex programme and then the nurses’ programme was transferred there.
However, there are reports that suggest among the worst nursing examination results that the Health Ministry has ever seen, was those who participated in the examination in 2014. At that time Dr. Ramsarran was Minister of Health. On that occasion 19 out of 267 students secured overall passes. The recent sitting of the Professional Nurses Examination represented a re-sit of the October 2016 examination which saw 23 out of 179 candidates gaining passes in the five testing areas. Among those who passed were a few who had repeated courses.
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