The College of The Bahamas’ School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions will offer a Diploma in Community Health Nursing beginning August, 2008, Minister of Health and Social Development, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said Monday.

Dr. Minnis said a Community Health Nursing Consultant Educator has already been employed to coordinate the Programme at the Grosvenor Close Campus of the College of The Bahamas.

“It is anticipated that this Programme will yield a minimum of 17 trained community health nurses who will be added to the public health sector by May, 2009, to compliment those hard working nurses who are already leading the way in Primary Health Care,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis said the establishment of the Community Health Diploma Programme is part of a restructuring process his ministry has undertaken as one of the strategies to strengthen Primary Health Care in The Bahamas, while reducing the costs associated with hospital stays.

He said nurses have “led the way” in providing Primary Health Care in The Bahamas for many years, particularly at the community level where Community Nurses have been conducting home visits “for decades, caring for the sick, promoting and restoring health and preventing disease and disability.”

The Nurses’ ability to provide care at the community level has helped to reduce the number of persons having to seek medical attention at the government-managed hospitals. This has in turn, led to a reduction in health costs. Community Nurses are now being joined on those visits by physicians.

The programme, which was “piloted” at the Flamingo Gardens Clinic, has been so successful that healthcare officials are expected to eventually expand the model to other community clinics.

“Nursing Practice is the very essence of Primary Health Care (and) this is even more true for nurses serving on our Family Islands where they provide more than 95 per cent of healthcare to the community,” Dr. Minnis said.

“Nurses are often the first point of contact with the healthcare system for patients not only in our small, remote islands, but also in the larger ones (and) as the major provider of healthcare to the people of The Bahamas, the Government values the service of nurses, recognizing that without them, the entire health system would collapse,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis said it was against this backdrop that the Government decided to “make an investment in nursing” by providing sponsorship for “at least 95 per cent” of all students participating in the Registered Nursing Programme at the College of The Bahamas.

The sponsorship includes payment of full tuition and a monthly stipend of $475 per semester for a minimum of 12 Credits. Additionally, all nursing students are fully sponsored during the Internship period and receive a minimum salary of $10,200.

Participants in the Trained Clinical Nursing Programme at the College of The Bahamas are also sponsored either by the Ministry of Health and Social Development or the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).

“You would agree therefore, that the Government of The Bahamas is making a tremendous investment in nursing,” Dr. Minnis added.