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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 15, 2024


May 21, 2003 – With 18 health-care resource people invited to testify at a Wednesday hearing on St. Croix on the recruiting and retaining of nurses in the territory, Senate Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee members found themselves facing only three witnesses.
According to a release issued by the committee chair, Sen. Douglas Canton Jr., Clarice Comissiong, Health Department director of nursing, said nurses leave the territory's hospitals because work conditions are "too stressful."
She also suggested that nursing programs to attract candidates early in the schools could help to alleviate shortages. Among 14 recommendations that she said had been given to an administration task force were starting a licensed practical nurse program in high schools, developing a nurse-testing tutorial program, employing per diem nurses who are residents, including retirees, and eliminating or reducing the disparity in salaries between local hires and nurses contracted from outside the territory.
Asked how many of the 14 recommendations have been implemented, Comissiong replied, "none." However, she said one, the idea of hiring nurses from Puerto Rico as nurse interns, has been extensively discussed.
Canton said he would prefer a program allowing Puerto Rican nurses to work in the Virgin Islands for a limited time during which they would take the national exam for licensed practical nurses.
Rodney Miller Sr., chief executive at Roy L. Schneider Hospital, said the nursing shortage is pervasive and growing. As a result, he said, the hospitals rely on contractual nursing staff, known as traveling nurses, to provide patient care. The costs average $50,000 a year per nurse, he said, and traveling nurses currently make up 55 percent of the nursing staff.
Lafayette E. Artis Sr., a radiology technician at Juan F. Luis Hospital, said the federal Nurse Reinvestment Act of 2002 establishes a National Nurse Service Corps to provide scholarships and loans to nursing students who agree to serve in hospitals with critical nursing shortages. He said trained personnel in critical allied health professions such as radiology also are in short supply.
Canton said the committee would reconvene to take further testimony at 10 a.m. on June 19.
All committee members were present — the chair and Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Lorraine Berry, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Emmett Hansen II, Luther Renee and Raymond "Usie" Richards.

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