HEALTH Minister Dr Fuad Khan said yesterday the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) is taking too long to turn out qualified nurses as students are forced into a curriculum filled with courses that have no connection to health.
Khan said he has asked COSTAATT to pare down on the less relevant aspects of the courses offered to nurses and aspiring nurses but changes are not yet apparent.
n the meantime, student nurses are anxious over the expenditure and years that it takes to finish their courses, Khan said.
This comes as Government prepares to welcome 35 Grenadian nurses, some of them midwives, into a needy local health system. Khan said the nurses will be dispersed among several institutions, including the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMCS) in Mt Hope and will possibly become part of efforts to establish longer opening hours in some health offices.
He said a shortage of qualified nurses still plagues the local system while student nurses are being frustrated in courses that can take up to five years to complete.
The El Dorado-based Academy of Nursing and Allied Health opened by Government last year is a joint project of COSTAATT, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the St. Augustine Education City.
“A lot of courses don’t relate to health and ancillary studies,” Khan said in a telephone interview yesterday.
“The students are complaining that they are spending time and money to take years to finish some of these courses. What they want is to graduate and begin to work.”
Khan continued that he has asked for the issue to be looked into but COSTAATT is “not paying attention”.
“I have asked that they try to offer courses that are more specific,” he said.
Nurses from Grenada may be just the start in tapping into Caricom for health workers to fill te void locally, Khan said, as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has indicated in the past that this will likely be the way Government looks to staff its growing number of health clinics and offices.
Persad-Bissessar’s offer of employment for Caricom siblings was made at the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Inter-sessional Summit in St Vincent in March, where St Lucian Prime Minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, had said the offer underscored the importance of the regional integration movement.
The Grenada team was secured as a result of talks between Khan’s ministry and its Grenadian counterpart, he said, the nurses were interviewed by a team fro the local ministry prior to the deal being sealed.
Initiation for the new nurses, who are expected to arrive today, is expected to take place this Wednesday.
He said his ministry has also has also been approached by the St. Lucian Ministry of Health for a similar arrangement.
The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported on the Trinidad-Grenada arrangement yesterday and said a statement from the Grenadian Ministry of Health stated that the move was made after “weeks of discussions and negotiations” with the Persad Bissessar administration. The nurses were to be put up at a hotel for two weeks, during which they will be presented to the Nursing Council of Trinidad and Tobago.
It was also reported by CMC that the St Lucia Nurses Association (SLNA) had called on the St Lucian government to ensure that problems confronting the profession are adequately dealt with before seeking to satisfy the employment needs of member Caricom states. —Kim Boodram