(CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says that reducing the shortage of nurses in the Americas, including the Caribbean, is key to a better response to the next pandemic.
According to the health body, between 600,000 and two million more healthcare professionals, including nurses, are needed to meet the health needs of the population of the Americas.
It, therefore, called for greater investments to close this gap and ensure the region has the personnel necessary to better respond to the next health emergency.
“A well-educated, skilled, and equitably distributed workforce is critical to building resilient health systems, meeting population health needs, and better preparing for future threats and pandemics,” said PAHO Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa.
During an event at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland to celebrate International Nurses Day, the PAHO director highlighted the fundamental role played by healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledged those who lost their lives.
According to Barbosa, the investment made by countries of the region in the health workforce to respond to COVID-19 was essential.
However, he said the nursing workforce “continues to face challenges related to shortages, poor distribution, and inadequate working environments.”
Barbosa said nurses represent 56 percent of the total health workforce in the Americas, making them the mainstay of health services.
According to recent estimates, Latin America and the Caribbean have around 44.3 nursing professionals per 10,000 inhabitants, lower than the estimated 70.6 per 10,000 needed to meet the United Nations’ goal of universal health access and coverage by 2030.
To address the future needs of health systems, the PAHO director called for a redoubling of efforts in three key areas: health financing, including education and retention of nurses; quality of education, to ensure that future nurses are well-trained; and expanding the professional role of nurses in primary care to reduce gaps in coverage and access.
“On this International Nurses Day, let us join efforts to work together to recover stronger and better from COVID-19, and make the necessary investments for the development of the health workforce throughout the Region of the Americas,” Barbosa said.
PAHO said there are about 27.9 million nursing professionals in the world, 30 percent of which are in the Americas.
In the region, PAHO said nurses account for 56 percent of all health professions, with 89 percent being women.