It is no secret that the whole Caribbean region is haemorrhaging its best healthcare professionals to the developed world. This has led to a wide gap in service provision at home especially in highly skilled and specialised areas. This has resulted to either these services not being provided at all, sourcing specialist from abroad who come on ad hoc basis or in desperation send the patients off the islands for such treatments. The question that should be uppermost on our minds  is – how long will this continue? Worldwide, it is a known fact that the cost of healthcare provision is enormous and has escalated in recent years. That trend is unlikely to change anytime soon. Whichever way we choose to deal with it as a region, it will cost us – either in dollars or human lives. A choice will have to be made. It must be borne in mind that even though some of these healthcare professionals are economic migrants, not all are in this category. There are those who in good faith went abroad for further specialist training and due to domestic circumstances had to stay longer than they planned.

According to a recent World Bank report on nursing shortage in the English speaking CARICOM nations, there are huge implications for service delivery and the region’s competitiveness. What is driving the high cost of healthcare delivery is the increase in aging population. There is no doubt if we’re able to retain all the graduates that we train we should be self-sufficient. In an ideal world that may be true. In reality this is nearly impossible. It is now high time that this issue is addressed as we look toward the next decade. Part of their recommendations is to increase training capacity which comes at a huge cost. There has to be a way to create some level of attractiveness for our people stay and practise within the region. This calls for an open debate and active participation from all stakeholders.  The feasibility of most of their recommendations for the region is unrealistic. However, one that should be taken on board is the suggestion that “countries ideally join forces and adopt a regional approach to increasing training capacity, managing migration and strengthening the evidence-base, if possible, with technical and financial support from countries where a large part of their nurse workforce will tend to migrate, Canada, the UK and the US.” It is about time the brain drain stops. Let it be sooner!

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