Government is working on a comprehensive human resources policy to address the shortage of healthcare professionals in the territory, according to Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley. (File photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

At a time when the territory is struggling with a shortage of doctors and nurses, government is recruiting health professionals from the United Kingdom and working to develop a comprehensive human resources policy for the sector, according to Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley.

The BVI Health Services Authority currently employs 151 nurses, Mr. Wheatley said in response to opposition questions during a Sept. 7 House of Assembly meeting.

Eighty nurses are based at the hospital nursing department, and 21 serve the community health department, the minister said. He didn’t say where the rest work.

Asked about the breakdown of belongers and non-belongers, Mr. Wheatley said the hospital department has 71 non-belonger nurses and nine belongers. In the community health department, there are 19 non-belongers and two belongers, he added.

Opposition member Julian Fraser suggested that the total numbers are not large enough. He calculated that there would be, at most, 27 nurses working on a shift if there were three shifts at the hospital per day.

He also asked the minister if he was “satisfied” with the ratio of belongers and non-belongers.

In response to what he called an “irrelevant question,” Mr. Wheatley declined to offer a “personal feeling” in response.

Planned policy

The minister also provided an update on the planned human resources policy, which he said will be in line with the World Health Organisation’s “Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030.”

“The human-resources-for-health-and-workforce policy and strategy will have to not only be in congruence with the existing health policy, but also consider current challenges where this policy and strategy have been developed,” he added. “We will review very closely in the short term how we can utilise any such jobs in the United Kingdom to particularly target mid- and late-career professionals in the United Kingdom for recruitment. Some of these may be ready for a career break in our jurisdiction.”

The BVIHSA’s strategic objectives include optimising the health workforce through evidence-informed policies and strengthening data on human health resources, among others, the minister said.

“While we develop this strategy, specific interventions will include reviewing the needs of the health system and realigning training, education and recruitment strategies,” he added.

Other initiatives include reviewing compensation and working conditions as part of efforts to better align with regional and global markets, according to the minister.