Talent shortages challenge on NHI

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

Continuing industrial unrest in the Bahamian healthcare sector underscores the need for this nation to “retain, regain and increase” workforce talent so it can realise its Universal Health Care (UHC) ambitions.

Dr Mark Birtnell, the KPMG accounting firm’s global chairman and senior partner for healthcare, government and infrastructure, told the Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF) yesterday that achieving UHC will be impossible without an adequate supply of trained health professionals.

He warned that The Bahamas and other Caribbean nations will have to address increased demand for trained health professionals, and said: “Only 40 percent of the world’s countries right now have universal health care.

“We are going to see a high demand for talent as countries try to find sufficient doctors and nurses. That’s a pressing point looking at the doctors’ strike last week in The Bahamas and the threat of industrial action from nurses in The Bahamas. Simply too many people are being drawn to the United States.”

Dr Britnell, who worked on the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme under the former Christie administration, said: “It’s same story in Jamaica and Barbados. Caribbean countries need to retain, regain and increase the talent in the health system. It would not be possible to provide universal health care if you do not have an adequate supply of trained health-care professionals.

“The race for nurses, doctors and allied health professionals is just going to get more severe. Countries need to wake up now because it takes on average ten years to implement universal health care.”

Dr Britnell added that universal health care was not a drag on the economy or costly to society. “Before you start providing free hospital care, just giving people access to basic primary care increases life expectancy, creates a a more productive workforce, development of infrastructure, skills training and creates more jobs,” he said.

“Over a 20-year period that would add five percentage points to the gross domestic product (GDP). That’s a conservative estimate.”