A number of key and critical medical staff jobs remain vacant at Peebles Hospital, and Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith who is a medical doctor by profession and a former Chief Medical Officer expressed concern that despite Government’s training investments these positions remain empty.
The BVI Leader noted that through the Ministry of Education investments have been made in training Virgin Islanders for the key roles, but he noted that there are still more jobs to fill: “It is true that we have spent a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of money in education for the people, young people of this Territory and they have taken advantage of these opportunities.”
Hon. Smith noted that the training must continue, but he opined that the studies should commence earlier than the college/university years: “Madame Speaker it does take some time before we are able to fill all the positions that are vacant in the Territory, and we have to continue with this process of educating and not just educating on an elementary level, or on a secondary level but on a focus education.”
“I know that in the Ministry of Education they have developed a preferred list of subjects which came as a result of knowing the needs of the Territory, so we can focus the education of our children to be more in keeping with the needs of being able to satisfy the requirements of the job markets out there,” the Premier said.
In stressing the vacancies at the Hospital, Premier Smith told the Legislators: “Let’s take the matter of health in the hospital at this point in time after all these years and all the education programs we’ve had… There is still for example no local medical internist – specialist in internal medicine at the hospital at this time, there is also no local surgeon at the hospital at this time. What I am saying is that we have to continue to educate as we’ve been doing and continue to encourage … So that we would be able to fill the positions that are vacant.”
The daunting tasks of trying to fill the positions with Virgin Islanders is being compounded by the fact that persons who go away to be trained return to work in the private sector instead of at the hospital: “Many of the persons who came back trained as doctors went to private practice and that is good because there is a need in that area and so we just had to continue doing what we have to do until all the areas in private and public service would be satisfied,” Hon. Smith explained.
BVIHSA Staffing Needs
During the 2017 Standing Finance Committee deliberations it was noted that the Territory’s healthcare vacancies extend beyond Peebles Hospital and expands through other areas of the BVI Health Services Authority’s (BVIHSA) purview.
It was noted that the BVIHSA has staffing needs in the health information system and ambulatory centres. It was pointed out that Nurse Iris O’Neal clinic upon completion would require an additional 45 persons.
Further it was mentioned that the fifth floor of Peebles Hospital would be commissioned and as a result the BVIHSA will be hiring additional nurses and support staff for the area. Additional staff is also required for the Road Town clinic which is expected to be expanded.
Minister Laments Nurse Shortage
While Premier Smith noted the need for specialist doctors, on numerous occasions Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Ronnie Skelton has bemoaned the shortage of nurses in the Territory.
Hon. Skelton even mentioned the need for more nurses on 20 April: “We need nurses! Somebody is going to tell our people that they can be nurses in this modern era by doing Home Economics in school; but it doesn’t work. And we have had nurses go into the school to tell them differently it gotta be Biology, Chemistry – you got to be in the Sciences now in order to be a nurse,” the Health Minister announced.
Since taking office Hon. Skelton has continuously complained that the BVI Health Services Authority is having a difficult time securing qualified local medical professionals. Back in 2015 Hon. Skelton made a plea during the NDP radio program on 19 January for Virgin Islanders who are away to return to the Territory and give their service at Peebles Hospital.
The Minister’s plea was in response to calls from residents who said that they would like to see more Virgin Islanders employed at the hospital: “We are trying to encourage our nurses who are overseas to come home. I know sometimes when they come there are difficulties, but we encourage doctors and nurses. We have people out there studying to take up some key positions. I know there will be problems and there will be concerns, but I am willing to address these concerns,” Minister Skelton stated.