Nurses from the Cook Islands and overseas are being encouraged to apply for jobs in a bid to address on ongoing shortage of nurses at Rarotonga Hospital and throughout the pa enua.
Currently there are 118 nursing staff employed by the Ministry of Health, with 70% based on Rarotonga.
Nurses are “spread sparingly across the shifts” at Rarotonga Hospital, Chief Nursing Officer Mary Kata said.
At Rarotonga Hospital, there is only enough staff to employ three or four nurses in surgery and paediatrics in mornings and two during the night; the Older People’s Emergency Department (OPED) and the maternity ward are attended by three staff on most days and two at weekends. The OPED has one nurse during the night shift due tothe shortage.
Last year, the ministry employed six nurses that had retired, giving them part-time roles. These staff have added value, given their familiarity with Cook Islands systems, customs, reo, and culture, in addition to their knowledge and experience.
Other efforts to expand capacity are underway.
A nursing school, which opened in 2013, is this year graduating 11 students. The ministry is also running a Bachelor’s of Nursing programme through the University of South Australia, with 10 registered nurses enrolled.
Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Herman said that the future of the nursing school is being reviewed.
“I think it would be premature to comment because that’s still under discussion at executive levels,” she said.
Dr Herman has said “nurses are the backbone of our health system”.