A group of nurses staged a brief demonstration outside the Ministry of Health yesterday in protest of conditions at the Blue Hill Road Clinic, which Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President Kimsley Ferguson said is not up to standard.
Ferguson, who also attended the demonstration, commended the nurses for “taking a stand” but said that he is concerned laborers’ issues are not being taken seriously by the government.
“The Blue Hill Road Clinic, that has been pending for a number of years,” he said.
“What compounded the situation today was that the air conditioning hasn’t been working for six months and they have now a rodent population in the clinic and there are also snakes in the clinic. And so, the nurses and support staff have had it up to their nostrils and they decided this morning to take a stand.”
In addition to those concerns, Ferguson said that staff from the Coconut Grove Clinic are temporarily working at the Blue Hill Road Clinic while repairs at the Grove location are underway, making it “impossible to maintain social distancing in a COVID environment”.
According to Ferguson, the nurses had a meeting with Ministry of Health officials, “who apologized for the fact that they had failed to address the concerns that they were aware of for years”.
“They have been promising to rectify the issue over the course of more than five years, and still [it’s] the same as it is now,” he said.
“But again this morning, we got another promise that it’s going to be rectified. One of the things that they indicated was the reason why the work hadn’t started was because the contractor that got the job had a compromised immune system, so he couldn’t be up and about during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Ferguson suggested that the Blue Hill Road Clinic be closed while repairs are made, so that staff will not have to work in that environment.
Claiming that he has tried escalating the concern to the Office of the Prime Minister to no avail, Ferguson added, “I’m very, very, very, very concerned that this government is not very labor-friendly and the issues that confront the workforce in this country are not being addressed.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis assumed the health portfolio last month following the resignation of then Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands over a controversial decision to allow six permanent residents into the country while its borders were closed to Bahamians.
In the most recent budget exercise, the Ministry of Health’s budget was cut from $324 million to $298 million.
The Department of Public Health, a new budget head, was allocated $45 million.