No impasse with nurses, Sands says
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands yesterday denied that the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) is at an impasse with the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) over an eight-hour shift system.
Sands was responding to comments made by BNU President Amancha Williams who said nurses will not agree to the system.
The minister said, “I am not aware that there is an impasse.
“Certainly this has not been a topical matter over the last few weeks to months.”
The PHA announced the new system last November and advised that nurses scheduled to work between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. would be paid $1.75 per hour in addition to their base pay.
The announcement prompted nurses to engage in a sickout and stage several protests. The shift system was never implemented.
Sands said, “…This vexing issue of the shift system gets to the very heart of the challenge that the PHA had a $750,000 overtime bill for one month and that is not sustainable.
“The imposition that this makes on the public purse, the people of The Bahamas, is huge and we now have to work together in the interest of finding some common ground as to how we can control this runaway expenditure.”
On Friday, Williams said, “No one started the new shift system underneath this BNU and no one will start that shift change.”
But in a statement yesterday, the PHA said it is willing to re-engage the BNU on discussions about the new shift system.
“While the standardization of shifts for nurses across the PHA remains a matter for future discussions with the BNU, there are many matters where the PHA and the BNU share common ground,” the PHA said.
“These include the need to promote the profession; a commitment to increasing the number of highly-trained local nurses; the expansion of opportunities for professional development and training for nurses; the need to ensure fair and equitable compensation; and the ongoing improvement and maintenance of the environment in which they practice.”
In January, The Nassau Guardian revealed that the PHA had exceeded its overtime budget for the fiscal year by $2 million.