The Vanuatu College of Nursing Education (VCNE) will not accept new intakes for the next five years, starting next year.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is embarking on a five-year transition to establishing a new provider as recommended by the Vanuatu Qualification Authority (VQA), said the Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Health (MOH), Russel Tamata.

Establishing a new nursing and health training provider with its own Act is one of the many recommendations of a VQA audit into VCNE.

Currently, VCNE has no proper basis for its legal establishment and operations; it has been operating as an internal unit of MOH.

The audit rated the overall performance of VCNE as poor. Other recommendations of the audit include suspending course accreditations until such time quality issues are addressed, and stopping further enrolment.

DG Tamata said the VCNE Board has decided to address some of the audit recommendations. He said they have a plan that they want to achieve in the next five years, and a priority of that plan is ensuring Vanuatu continues to produce its own nurses while the nursing college ceases enrolment.

Tamata said they are consulting with the National Scholarship Office to determine options for scholarship trainings abroad.

“In the next five years we will be training our nurses abroad. An advantage of this decision is that the 90 or 100 or 90 students we are sending abroad will graduate with Bachelors, not diplomas like what VCNE is producing,” he said.

The DG said they are also exploring bridging courses to upskill existing nurses who will be providing supervision to the new nurses once they return abroad.

Most of the local nurses graduated with diploma from VCNE. Also, to teach bachelor courses, trainers must be equipped with higher-level qualifications. Tamata said they will be sending trainers abroad to upgrade their qualifications, as part of the preparations prior 2027.

DG Tamata said another priority is establishing the new nursing and health training provider by 2027. According to him, the Council of Ministers (COM) has already approved for the nursing college to be relocated to Santo.

COM this week approved the Bill of Quantity (BoQ) for the new institution on Santo, which is roughly over VT2 billion, he conveyed.

“We have be mindful that we went to Solomon Islands for nurses twice. It is a lesson learnt. Let us build a big school, a school not only for nursing but health science too and maybe later on medicine,” he stressed.

The new facility on Santo will be established on a state land near the Northern Provincial Hospital. Its schematic design has already been approved.

DG Tamata said they will be requesting funds from donors for the establishment of this new institution. Once established, it will be producing more graduates compare to VCNE only producing 40 every year.

The demand for nursing in Vanuatu and everywhere else in the world is high.