The Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) yesterday warned that healthcare services throughout The Bahamas may be interrupted until Wednesday as a result of nurses demonstrating.
“The Ministry of Health wishes to advise the public that there may be interruption of services at our public health facilities, namely Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC), the Rand and all clinics throughout The Bahamas, on Monday 29 [through] Wednesday 31 October, 2018,” the PHA said in a statement.
“The public is further advised that limited services will be available at all facilities and persons may experience delays.
“Consequently, we encourage those who are not critically ill not to present themselves at our facilities on these days.”
Nurses yesterday protested outside PMH against a new shift system announced by the PHA last week.
The system establishes a 40-hour work week and an eight-hour daily shift as opposed to the current 10-hour shift for night duty nurses.
The PHA also announced that nurses
scheduled to work between 6 p.m. and
6 a.m. will be paid $1.75 per hour in addition to their base pay.
The PHA said the new system will eliminate the inequity caused by the four nights on/four nights off shift system which results in night duty nurses working only 157 days per year on average, compared to 234 days per year on average for all other nurses.
Addressing the matter at his Meeting Street office yesterday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said, “We have reliable information that the Bahamas Nurses Union is planning a national event. They call it an extended meeting.
“We expect it around 10 o’clock this morning and to last, we believe, for several hours.
“This is likely to significantly interfere with the delivery of healthcare services. We find it to be unfortunate.
“We have encouraged dialogue, we are opened for dialogue and in the event of an impasse we are certainly open to even proceeding to arbitration, but the idea that Bahamian patients should suffer as a result of an industrial disagreement, we find it unfortunate.”
Sands added, “We have a contingency plan in place to have additional staff step up as best as possible.
“It may require that elective surgical procedures be postponed or delayed or even cancelled. Unfortunately, the public suffers in this instance.
“I have spoken with the nursing president today. I have made it very clear that my ministry is open to ongoing negotiations to settle this matter and that I think we should seek a negotiated compromise.
“That is the position of the Ministry of Health and I believe that is probably going to be supported by the entire Cabinet and the prime minister.”
The BNU said it is insulted by the $1.75 premium for the night shift, and also contends that the new system would not provide enough rest periods for nurses.
Sands believes what is being offered is reasonable.
“We have proposed $1.75 per hour on top of the base salary, which adds in some instances as much as $4,000 a year, just to work the night shift and the night shift is the shift which is the least labor intensive,” he said.
“So there are no operations performed other than emergencies, there are no procedures performed other than emergencies and without diminishing the significance of the night shift for the most part, the activity that takes place on the wards during that time period is less than what takes place during the day and during the afternoon.”
He continued, “This unfortunately comes down to opportunities for overtime. And so when we look at a four on/four off shift system, it creates a significant part of the overtime opportunities for staff.
“Moving to a five on/two off system will reduce the overtime opportunities. In response, we recognize that this has a direct impact on take-home income. We are prepared to mitigate that change.
“However, the fundamental commitment of any government and the Ministry of Health has to be the welfare, the safety, the care of patients at our healthcare facilities.”
Sands added that his ministry is committed to finding a solution to this issue.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications