However, he stressed that plans were in place to boost nursing numbers should demand increase during the pandemic.
Speaking during States question time, Health Minister Richard Renouf said that it was virtually impossible to bring agency staff to the Island and that ‘we only have registered nurses that are in Jersey’.
Outlining the current vacancy and absence rates, Deputy Renouf said that 6.5% of registered nurses, 4.5% of healthcare assistants and 10.4% of allied healthcare professionals were absent, totalling 288 staff. This, he said, equated to 134 unavailable due to Covid-19, 66 on sickness absence and 88 on leave.
‘Absence rates fluctuate on a daily basis. [On Monday] there was an overall absence of 9.4% across the department,’ he said.
The minister also said that in ordinary circumstances the Health Department would have 65 registered nurses to 35 healthcare assistants.
‘The Island’s chief nurse [Rose Naylor] has been working with us on plans on how we would manage the nursing workforce in the event of a significant peak in demand,’ the minister added in response to a question from Deputy Geoff Southern.
‘For example, the return to the frontline of a number of registered nurses who have come out of retirement or have left the profession.’
He added that support staff who would usually work in theatre could be called upon to provide support in the intensive care team and that third-year nursing students could also be brought into the workforce if required. Deputy Renouf went on to pay tribute to ‘the resilience of our staff and their willingness to step up to a hugely challenging situation’.
Currently, a 180-bed temporary Nightingale Hospital is being built at Millbrook Playing Fields.