The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) was taken by surprise by the Island Sun front-page report on Thursday this week, that health officials are working on, what it described as “Blocking” nurses aspiring to work overseas. This is incorrect and has resulted in the public being misled and therefore the Ministry would like to correct the misinformation.
It must be noted that there are currently two means through which nurses can access these opportunities overseas, the first is under the Pacific – Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAET) and the second, is through private agents and arrangements operating outside of the government processes.
The meeting this week with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme is pertaining to the former and the matter of discussion were mainly on how best to manage the selection process to ensure minimal to zero impact on health service delivery in the country in the event that there is mass migration of the health workforce leaving the service.
In that meeting, it was agreed that this opportunity can be offered to unemployed nurses, and retirees who may wish to take up this opportunity with the possibility of some newly registered nurses who are currently unemployed as part of their processes of acquiring nursing accreditation abroad. Possibility to include those that have gone through and completed the Disability and Rehabilitation Programme at SINU was also discussed.
This was the essence of the meeting and it was never at all about blocking nurses to work overseas. In fact, initial discussions around these opportunities with MFAET were initiated some three to four years ago.
The manner in which the article was written unfortunately portrayed the Ministry of health as orchestrating ways to block the nurses from overseas opportunities which sparked widespread criticism levelled against MHMS on social media, all because of an article that reflected poor journalism as the article was poorly investigated, lack proper verification, compiled and presented out of context.
The Senior Executive Management of the Ministry is fully aware of and respects the rights and prerogative of individual nurses who may wish to resign and work somewhere else including overseas.
Should these opportunities come through the government, as is the case of discussions this week with MFAET, then the Ministry of Health can have some control over the management of selection as it is obliged to safeguard and maintain health service delivery in the country.
If from private recruitment agents which we now have in the country, operating outside of the government system, then it would be difficult for the Ministry to manage and mostly left at the discretion of the individual nurses to take up the opportunity or remain.
This may present risk of mass resignation of nurses which will in turn impact the health service delivery in-country and MHMS is fully aware of this and therefore it is working closely with MFAET and the Ministry of Public Service to better coordinate, plan and manage these scenarios and mitigate factors that would contribute significantly to brain drain scenarios.
This year a total of 306 nursing interns will be fully registered. Further, the Ministry is expecting around 200 more nurses to graduate in 2023, with 165 to be graduated from the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) and 30 plus from the Atoifi School of Nursing campus in Malaita Province.
In terms of the reinstatement of SINA (Solomon Islands Nursing Associaton), MHMS will issue statement on this on Monday.