Junior doctors and nurses have been volunteering to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic since it started in March, Bahamas Doctors Union President Dr. Melisande Bassett said yesterday, adding that she’s not sure a new shift system is “necessary”.
Her comments came after a leaked minute paper, which was signed by Ministry of Health Acting Permanent Secretary Prenell King-Rolle, revealed that the ministry will introduce a shift system for all public healthcare workers in order to assist with “the collective fight and management of the COVID-19 crisis” in The Bahamas.
Bassett told The Nassau Guardian, “I don’t know if it’s necessary if you’ve had people who have been willing to volunteer, people who are still volunteering. And, again, I don’t want everybody to be classed in the same group to say that, ‘You have systemic lupus erythematosus and I’m going to put you to work in the COVID unit.
“‘I may not know, but I’m just going to assign you there and you need to show up to work.’ It needs to be done with some sensitivity and some forethought. It also needs to follow world guidelines to ensure that we’re not overworking the staff, because one of the things that studies have shown is that the longer you have your healthcare team in contact with COVID patients, the greater their risks are of becoming infected and the poorer their outcomes.
“So, we work with science. We work with data and we try to work humanely as well. We just have to ask that the Ministry of Health and the PHA (Public Hospitals Authority) do the same.”
Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said her union has not yet received any communication from the Ministry of Health as it relates to the new shift system.
“On inquiry with some of our physician managers, we have not gotten anything in writing or verbally to say that that is the case,” she said.
“We await that as well. However, it’s unfortunate that we would have become aware of that position via the media and without proper engagement with the CPSA because certainly any adjustments in any working environment should have been discussed with the union.”
Pinder-Butler said her union remains committed to “working as best as we can” during the pandemic, noting that her members have been doing it since the first wave.
“When you talk about mandating persons to do things, that sometimes causes persons to become uncomfortable and causes some angst, especially if the appropriate notification isn’t given to employees as to what that might mean,” she said.
“So, we expect that that level of engagement will happen in the very near future.”
There were 104 cases reported during the first wave, which started in March and ended in June.
The number of cases has climbed past 1,000 in the second wave.
In the document, King-Rolle noted that the number of individuals who volunteered to assist during the first wave is “not sufficient to cover all areas of the public health system and to manage the current state of affairs”.
She noted the exponential increase in COVID-19 cases during the second wave has resulted in “a large number” of employees being exposed to the virus.
At least 30 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 8, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan.
More than 400 healthcare workers were potentially exposed to the virus in the last month.