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…regional officials, parents condemn government for move
By Naomi Marshall
“This is like you are hoping it is all a dream and that you will wake up any moment,” are the words of Miriam Mitchell, a first year nursing student whose programme at the Charles Rosa School of Nursing was recently suspended by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
In interviews done with Village Voice News, students, parents and Region 10 officials expressed their views on the suspension of the first year registered nurse and nursing assistant programmes. Mitchell who was glad to begin her journey to becoming a nurse after several failed attempts to get into the nursing school, called the untimely situation, frustrating and sad.
“The situation is very frustrating because I was so happy to be part of the programme. I even had my shoes before even going on my interview. Seeing that my parents had to save to purchase materials needed for me to start this profession and then now they go and suspend the programme is very sad,” said Mitchell.
The 22-year-old indicated that she is currently employed part time at the job she left to join nursing school thanks to her boss who has a good heart. Another student who wishes to stay anonymous told this newspaper that the suspension has affected her greatly and called it a major setback in life.
“This has affected me greatly because government jobs are not really prevalent in Linden. The only two prevalent government job that you can be sure of is nursing and teaching so now that we are out of school with nothing to do it is very frustrating and the whole situation is just sad,” she expressed.
The young woman who waited two years to begin her studies in nursing is now left between being hopeful that the programme restarts soon enough, and looking for new career ventures. “Honestly I really wanted to continue the programme but with how things are going you do not know what is going to be the outcome so my mindset has already started changing and venturing into new careers. I am seeking vacancy else were because I do not want to sit and say oh let me wait on this and then when I wait long nothing come out of it,” she stated.
Another student said she feels confused, out of options and is also trying to figure out her next step from the heartbreaking news of the nursing programme being suspended.
“I’m feeling confused and out of opportunity. My next step is to seek employment or try to start a small business. Apart from that, it is still my interest to be a nurse so, it’s an option for me to apply at the Georgetown branch for the fresh batch in a few months.”
Just two weeks after the first year registered nurse and nursing assistant programmes commenced at the Charles Rosa School of Nursing in Region 10, Upper Demerara/Berbice, the MOH suspended it claiming that there is an excess of registered nurses in the Region. In a statement made by MOH it was highlighted that a recent evaluation of nursing personnel in all ten of Guyana’s regions show that Region 10 is the lone region with an excess of 233 registered nurses and 106 registered nursing assistants.
Additionally, the release noted that the Charles Rosa School of Nursing in Region 10 is envisioned to train all eligible Guyanese who are desirous of pursuing a career in nursing. However, over the years, the school has trained persons mostly from Region 10, while persons from other regions such as 1,7,8 and 9 were given insignificant placements.
Reports indicated that Batch 66 began classes in April 2021 with 34 nursing students of which 24 were from Region 10. Meanwhile, Class 17 began with 33 nursing assistant students of which 21 were from Region 10. In the release the ministry noted, that all other regions have shortages of trained nurses, and have identified qualified persons for training at the Charles Rosa Nursing School who were not selected to be a part of the school’s latest intake, Batch 66 and Class 17.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Village Voice News, a parent of a student from Batch 66 who wishes to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her child called the decision made by MOH “disrespectful and vindictive”. “It is very bad on the government’s behalf because to me it looks very spiteful like they are trying to spite Linden because saying that Lindeners are the ones mostly benefiting from the school sounds so foolish and makes no sense. The school is in Linden, who do you expect to attend the school? So to me they are being very vindictive,” she stated.
She indicated that she is worried about the young people, including her daughter who is now at home with nothing to do and maybe become frustrated as a result, adding, “I just hope that the young persons that were suspended stay focus and do not do anything foolish”.
Speaking with this entity was the Regional Vice Chairman of Region 10, Douglas Gittens who said that the decision made by MOH “is a part of the punishment for Linden people” and “a part of the government’s plan “to close the entire institution down by starting at this level”.
Gittens indicated that the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) has taken a firm stance against the decision made by MOH and is insisting that the programme resume in the near future. “We at the Council hold a firm stance that this programme should restart as early as possible. The students have spent a lot of money to enter the programme and it is only fair that you give them a chance to finish. We want the nursing school to be opened in the next month at least and better information is given to the students so that they can have less sleepless nights,” Gittens posited.
In a letter written to the editor of Village Voice News, Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira emphasised that MOH’s attempt to justify its decision to suspend the two programmes is “disappointing, bizarre and worrisome”.
“The Ministry stated that the school is funded by taxpayers of Guyana to train all eligible Guyanese. The students of Linden and Region ten who applied and got accepted were all eligible Guyanese. Where they live should not be of any significance consequence for such a nonsensical and backward decision,” Figueira noted. The Member of Parliament went on to say, “Many young people in Linden who are desirous of furthering their education upon leaving secondary school opt to either go to LTI, CPCE or the Nursing School, especially those whose parents don’t have the means to send them to the university of Guyana, and those are in the majority. Hence, the reason region Ten having the most qualified teachers as per region in the country and the Nursing School always having a greater influx of students from where it is located.
Figueira highlighted that the students rare not only being trained to serve Region 10 but to serve Guyana as a whole. He marked the suspension of the programmes, by MOH and by extent the Government of Guyana, as a case of discrimination against the people of Linden and Region Ten.
He called on MOH to reopen the nursing programme and give the youths the opportunity to pursue their dreams of becoming healthcare professionals and serving their country. After showing up for classes on April 29, 2021, the first year nursing students were informed by the Principal of the school that the programme has been suspended with immediate effect until further notice, with directives from MOH.
Village Voice was made to understand that persons from the hinterland who were part of Batch 66 and Class 17 were enrolled in the nursing school in Georgetown to continue the nursing programme. However, when persons from Region 10 who were also a part of Batch 66 and Class 17 enquired about enrollment in the said nursing school, they were told that it is closed off to incoming students at the moment.