Weekender

Why nurses are Leaving

Written By : MARAEA WAQALEVU. The attractive packages offered by overseas countries to the Florence Nightingales of Fiji is what’s luring them in countless numbers abroad, but suffice to say,
25 Jul 2008 12:00

image Written By : MARAEA WAQALEVU.
The attractive packages offered by overseas countries to the Florence Nightingales of Fiji is what’s luring them in countless numbers abroad, but suffice to say, there hasn’t been much argument from the Health ministry on the issue because they would never be able to meet such appealing offers.
Hundreds of nurses choose to take up offers from overseas countries because of the low level of income they earn in the country, poor working conditions, long hours and not forgetting the high cost of living that goes with it.
The plight of nurses has been highlighted yet again because it seems the government is unwilling to seriously address it.
Fiji Nursing Association general secretary Kuini Lutua said nurses continue to leave for greener pastures off-shore because working conditions and pay are much better compared to what they receive here.
“The low wages and high cost of living give them no alternative but to leave their families and relatives in search of better work conditions overseas.
“If they had a choice they would rather stay back and work here because they want to have their own families living with them,” Ms Lutua said.
Part of the reason that nurses leave for greener pasture is the failure of Government to provide them with a proper pay increment over the past years.
The last increment received by the nurses was way back in 2001 with only one per cent pay increase.
“The nurses have not received a wage increment for a few years now with the last time an increment was awarded was way back in 2001 which was only a one per cent increase,” said Ms Lutua. A huge protest was staged by the nurses last year partly because of Government’s refusal to address the problems faced by them which has been ongoing year in year out.
“This is part of the reason the nurses had staged a protest last year because they wanted the government to seriously address the problems they had been facing for decades.
“It does not seem that the health ministry will at any time soon do anything about it,” she said. Ms Lutua said nurses in the country would continue to leave our shores if the problem is not rectified and in the process the thousands of dollars Government has used on training the nurses would only go to waste.
“Meanwhile the nurses will continue to leave our shores after the government has spent so much on their training.
“The question that needs to be asked therefore is why bother training them at all if after they graduate the ministry is not willing to offer them a reasonable salary,” she said.
Ms Lutua said the nurse’s departure from the nursing fraternity is a cost to the government which has invested in their training only to see them take up job offers elsewhere.
“Because of their training and qualification, they are in high demand in overseas hospitals who are willing to pay them what they deserve.
“It is a similar case to what the local doctors face here. The government invests so much in their training but does not pay an appropriate salary after they graduate,” Ms Lutua said. She said the only benefit that seemed to be offered to nurses was the free transportation offered to those doing night shifts.
“Otherwise, we hardly get anything in terms of incentives with the only benefit being transportation for those who work night shifts and afternoon shifts,” Ms Lutua said.
The same she said applied to doctors in the country.
“It is a similar case to what the local doctors face here. The government invests so much in their training but does not pay an appropriate salary after they graduate.
“Instead it looks abroad for doctors to come and fill the many vacancies in our health ministry.
“Again the question to be asked is why bother at all training locals to join the medical profession when the pay is less than what is offered to those brought from overseas.
“It does not look right and is something that needs urgent attention.
“We feel more comfortable to be treated by locals in our hospitals and health centres because we speak the same language and understand each other better,” Ms Lutua said.
She said Government needs to seriously look at the problems otherwise; it would be the overseas country that would have the benefit of the doubt in the end, especially with the well qualified nurses that are trained in Fiji.


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