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Shift system to be introduced for health care workers

The Ministry of Health 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, according to Acting Permanent Secretary Prenell King-Rolle.

In the a minute paper, dated August 11, 2020, King-Rolle said the government is “conscious of the concerns and fears of employees in the dispensation and desires” to maintain a healthy public service workforce.

“Hence, the government has made every effort to ensure the safety of its employees through training and the provision of personal protective equipment,” she wrote. 

“To date, there has been no furloughing, layoffs, terminations or a reduction or deferring of benefits.

“So, maintaining the payroll for full complement of staff while paying overtime to compensate for staff shortages cannot be sustained.”

King-Rolle noted that under the Emergency Powers (COVID-19 Pandemic)(Lockdown) Order, 2020, all individuals employed with the public sector, who are designated as essential workers by the permanent secretary of their respective ministry, must report to work.

She said supervisors are required to roster all healthcare and ancillary support staff on the shift system in support of social distancing.

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.

Both the Bahamas Nurses Union and the Consultants Staff Physicians Association have expressed concern with the possibility of their members burning out as a result of the prolonged pandemic.

“The first wave of the pandemic lasted for some three months and there were not many hospitalizations,” King-Rolle wrote. 

“However, the national health situation has changed. Many more COVID-19 patients have become seriously ill and some 35 of them are now hospitalized.

“The number of persons who volunteered during the first wave of the pandemic is not sufficient to cover all areas of the public health system and to manage the current state of affairs.

“With the exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, a large number of employees have been exposed and are currently in quarantine. Hence, these valuable employees cannot be rostered for the next seven to 21 days.

“This reduces the number of committed volunteer employees available and there is a risk of burning out those who are left in place to carry the work load.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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