by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The President of the St. Kitts Nurses Association, Jamella Francis, continues her call for changes in the Nurses and Midwives Act.
Francis has raised issues with the registration and reregistration of nurses in the Federation.
“In keeping with regional trends in nursing, other countries across the region charge re-licensure, every two and three years. Nurses in CARICOM countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines reregister with their nurses and midwives Council every two years. While Dominica and Grenada reregister every three years.”
According to the Act, nurses who wish to work in the Federation as practitioners have to pay an annual fee of EC$100 with the Ministry of Health.
Nurse Francis suggests that the rate of registration is unfitting for the nurses of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We believe that biennial registration will not only allow us adequate time to accumulate the stipulated in-service education, [continuing] education hours, but it will also have a positive impact on the economic well-being of the nurses who diligently work in a healthcare system that is currently understaffed with a nurse-patient ratio of approximately 15 patients to one nurse. Many of our nurses practising within the Federation and overseas resent having to pay an annual re-registration fee to keep our hard-earned registration.”
WINN FM’s news team reached out to the Hon. Akilah Byron Nisbett, Minister of Health, for comment on the nurse’s claims.
Minister Byron-Nisbett admitted that through consultation with nurses and the Nursing and Midwives Council for St. Kitts and Nevis, the Ministry acknowledges specific shortfalls within the Nurses And Midwives (Registration) Act.
“Now, there are quite a number of issues with the current Act, which we all accept both from the Ministry’s end, the console end, as well as discussions that I’ve had with various nurses, even retired nurses. They would have expressed to me that there are quite a number of shortfalls within our current Nurses and Midwives Act and that they believe that the Act needs to be updated to bring it into modern times. I agreed with that notion.”
To address the nurse’s concerns, the Minister said she met with the Council in 2021 to address the issues.
In helping to update the act, Byron-Nisbett reached out to the local representative of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) for consultation on regional legislation as guidance for the update.
“She would have provided me with the one from Trinidad and Tobago, which is a Nursing Personnel Act… I would have also provided that to the Nursing Council when I met with them in 2021 and [told them that] they can use [it] as a reference guide as they go through the entire act to make changes.”
Other issues are also being addressed, including the members of the Nursing and Midwives Council.
“There was also the issue of the makeup of the Council, which even the council members present and the past council members and the nursing bodies said that they didn’t think that makeup was fair because the nursing Council is made up of the Matron, Assistant Matron, the coordinator for community nursing, the assistant coordinator for community nursing. And they felt [that] if the council is the regulatory body for the nurses and they deal with disciplinary actions, if the same people who are our managers, still sit on the council then when we need to be disciplined, or what if we have issues with our management, who do we go to? So things like that [are] what we’re looking at and changing as well in terms of the makeup of the council to make it fair for everyone.”
The Minister assures that changes are underway; however, as it stands now, the current legislation must be followed and based on the statistics provided by Byron-Nisbett, the vast majority of nurses are complying.
“As of last Friday (March 11), we have 142 registered nurses at our health institutions (hospitals); of the 142, 139 had already renewed their registration as of last Friday. One of the three who are not reregistered is on study leave. In Nevis, at their hospital, there are 48 registered nurses; of the 48 registered nurses, 44 have renewed their registration, two of those are on study leave. Community nurses in St. Kitts, a total of 34 registered nurses; all 34 have renewed their registration. In Nevis, there’s a total of 11; all 11 have renewed their registration. In private institutions, we have 15; 11 of the 15 would have already renewed their registration. At Clarence Fitzroy Bryant, we have seven; all seven have renewed their registration. In terms of retired nurses, we have six in Nevis; five of the six have renewed their registration, and on St. Kitts, there are eight registered retired nurses; six of the eight would have already renewed their registration. So the nurses are complying with the act as it is now.”