Nine months for new nurses is too long, says OBA
The nine months it can take to bring in new nurses from overseas is unacceptable, the Opposition has said.
Michael Dunkley, the One Bermuda Alliance shadow health minister, said that the Government needs to speed up the process in such a critical sector for the island.
Staff shortages at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital are being exacerbated by immigration rules, with 36 registered nursing posts empty.
The Bermuda Hospitals Board said that 25 new registered nurse recruits are in the immigration queue, or serving out their notice period at their jobs.
The BHB said the process typically takes six to nine months, with applicants from visa-controlled countries requiring multi-entry visas taking longer to get through the immigration process than others.
Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette: “Nine months is just not an acceptable length of time. We need more nurses now.
“It is imperative that vacancies are filled as quickly as possible. I am calling on the minister [responsible for] immigration to step up the pace.
“If this is how long it takes, we will never catch up.
“I am sure that other places get things done quicker than this. Who would wait around for a job for nine months?”
A BHB spokeswoman said that the organisation is working with the Ministry of Economy and Labour to address the issue and deal with any challenges that arise.
The spokeswoman said: “Seventy per cent of BHB’s healthcare workforce are from overseas, and we appreciate the work done to have them landed in a timely way so that patient care can be maintained.
“We continue to work with the Department of Immigration to land registered nurses who are from visa-controlled countries more quickly.
“Any further queries on this issue should be directed to the Department of Immigration.”
The BHB stated that the 8 per cent registered nurse vacancy rate compared well internationally.
The spokeswoman said: “This translates to 36 out of 425 RN positions across BHB and across all services.
“This is well below nurse vacancy benchmarks internationally and better than many hospitals worldwide.
“Of the 36 RN positions, only 11 are open positions — 25 of them have RNs appointed who are going through the onboarding process, from the gathering and verification of required documents by immigration to working through notice periods at their current employment.
“All organisations and hospitals, however, function with a certain vacancy rate, and ours is not causing service delivery issues or impacting the number of available beds.
“The immigration processing time is six to eight weeks.”
It takes time to gather the required documents — up to four months — and send them, the spokeswoman added.
“A police check is needed, and that can take a long time for some jurisdictions, and the Bermuda Nursing Council initial registration and approval takes about five to six weeks
“Candidates have to submit their required docs direct to BNC for review and approval before their work-permit application is submitted to the Department of Immigration.
“If they are a visa-controlled national, it can take months to receive a multi-entry visa.
“Working through their notice after they have their work permit and visa can take between one to three months.
“So, typically the whole process usually takes in the area of six to nine months.”
The Government was contacted for comment.