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SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 29, 2001 – Fiji’s Daily Post/FijiLive)---Fiji nurses will be part of the 50,000 nurses recruitment drive in the United Kingdom this year.

This was confirmed by the Permanent secretary for Health, Luke Rokovada, yesterday.

Mr. Rokovada said that the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had earlier announced that Britain wants another 50,000 nurses and they just could not train them overnight.

The British government would have to make recruitments outside the United Kingdom and developing countries like Fiji would be affected.

Just two weeks ago, an overseas recruiting agent was in the country to interview nurses willing to go to the United Kingdom.

A staff nurse, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that most of them had attended the interview but would not like to reveal their identity for fear of losing their jobs if they are not successful.

The agents have left and many were now awaiting the result.

Mr. Rokovada said the government could not stop the nurse and doctor exodus as they were leaving for greener pastures. He said it's a sad situation that soon after they upgraded the nurses' course, the exodus began.

The Fiji Nurses' Association (FNA) fully supports the migration because of the comparatively poor working conditions offered to its members.

Mr. Rokovada said the Ministry of Health had not received any resignations, but was expecting them before the year ends. The reason for this was that nurses leaving for overseas jobs need an accompanying letter from the ministry.

This, he says, is done every six months, so those who are planning to leave will have to submit their letter of resignation any time from now.

He confirmed that doctors too are leaving and this has had a negative effect on the services provided by the Ministry of Health.

The Assistant Minister for Health, Tomasi Sauqaqa, admitted in the lower house that one of the major problems in the delivery of health services is the shortage of health workers, especially nurses and doctors Fiji loses each year. He said the ministry had been losing a lot of doctors and nurses to neighboring countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand.

The annual output from the Fiji School of Medicine (FSM) has hardly matched the number of doctors lost each year. Last year a total of 18 medical graduates from FSM joined the ministry. However, 34 local doctors left the service. Most of them emigrated and 30 expatriate doctors left after completing their contracts and this loss created 46 vacancies.

To solve the problem, the Ministry of Health has been recruiting doctors from overseas. Last year, 45 doctors were recruited from the Philippines and were posted to areas where there was no doctor.

As for the nurses, Mr. Sauqaqa said the country was losing them faster than it can replace them. Last year the ministry lost 177 nurses, of whom 130 were resignations and 47 retirements.

The output from the Fiji School of Nursing this year was 131, so Fiji is still 47 short.

Government has also promised to review the terms and conditions of employment for nurses and doctors in a bid to stop the exodus.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

For additional reports from FijiLive, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive. 

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