PMH technicians walk out over PPE issues

Approximately 60 laboratory technicians at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) temporarily walked off the job yesterday, raising concerns over a lack of sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) Executive Vice President O’Neil Thurston said yesterday.

He said the workers were outside for roughly an hour before returning to their posts.

“Today, workers are very, very fearful for their lives,” Thurston said.

“And it’s a domino effect. It doesn’t only affect our workers, but it affects their families as well.”

He added, “Earlier today, the vast majority of our lab technicians had assembled here just to voice their concerns as it relates to proper PPEs and the authority not adhering to the social distancing order.

“I believe that sometime yesterday, the PHA (Public Hospitals Authority) would have put out a policy as it relates to social distancing and how managers should go about it.

“Up to now, managers are not adhering to it. They are not implementing these policies. And, so, the workers were very concerned that they were not provided with proper PPEs and whatnot.”

However, in a statement yesterday, the PHA denied claims of insufficient PPEs, saying the resource was “never under threat”.

“The PHA is branding reports that there is a lack of personal protective equipment to support the thousands of healthcare workers across the country as false and malicious,” it said.

“As a matter of infectious disease protocols, the PHA via its supplies management agency secured and continues to restock elevated quantities of PPEs to equip persons across the entire healthcare system inclusive of hospitals and clinics in New Providence and the Family Islands.

“At no time was this resource under threat and as a matter of standard operating procedures, the supply levels of PPEs is closely monitored.”

The walkout came only days after doctors, nurses and other staff in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department of PMH walked out over concerns that suspected COVID-19 cases were being kept on the main floor of A&E, as there were no more isolation rooms available.

Thurston called for the PHA to “take care of its workers”, noting that there have been communication issues with the unions.

“How do you expect for your workers to take care of the patients if you’re not taking care of them?” he said.

He added, “This has been a myriad of ongoing concerns for the past week now.

“The unions were not being involved and workers were in positions where they were they were going on wards and not realizing what they’re walking into.”

The issues at PMH come amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas, with more than 600 cases having been confirmed in the past month.

Last week, three wards at the hospital were shut down due to a COVID-19 exposure, the second major one at the facility since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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