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Staff at A&E return to work

Following a meeting with health officials at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, doctors and nurses in the Accident and Emergency (A&E), who refused to work on Tuesday due to safety concerns over COVID-19, returned to work, Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said.

“They returned to the emergency room,” Pinder-Butler said.

“The concerns that were expressed related to patients not being able to be properly isolated and some spacing issues were addressed by management yesterday.”

On Tuesday, Doctors and nurses in the A&E Department of Princess Margaret Hospital sounded the alarm over what they described as a critical lack of adequate safety protocols to prevent themselves and patients from being exposed to COVID-19, as individuals suspected of being infected were being kept in A&E.

It was revealed that there was no longer sufficient space at the hospital to properly isolate suspected COVID-19 cases, who were being kept in A&E.

Just last week, The Guardian reported that some 50 patients were potentially exposed to COVID-19 across three wards at PMH. 

At the time, Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams said between 24 and 50 nurses were exposed to COVID-19 on the wards.

She said some of the exposures started as early as July 23.

Regarding issues at A&E, Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melissande Bassett had said that doctors from her union will not return to A&E until the matter is addressed.

Bassett and Pinder-Butler met with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Minister of Health Renward Wells and the leadership from the Ministry of Health around 11:30 a.m. yesterday. 

“We thought that the meeting that we had today was a productive one,” Pinder-Butler said a few hours later.

“We were able to discuss our concerns with all the relevant stakeholders. We hope that some of the things that we recommended would be considered and we look forward to the partnership that should continue to happen in the future.”

She added, “A lot of our main concerns had to do with communication. And we addressed some of those things at the time of the meeting and expect to have continued meetings with management, as well as the Ministry of Health and the prime minister as we deal with this pandemic at this time.”

Pinder-Butler noted that while that particular situation was resolved, there are still larger capacity issues that must be dealt with.

“We have a challenge,” she said.

“We hope that those challenges will be addressed as best as possible, especially considering that we know that we will have a continued increase in cases with COVID in the country. So, we expect that those things will be addressed as soon as possible.”

Shortly after reopening the borders on July 1, The Bahamas has seen an explosion in COVID-19 cases.

Bassett said yesterday that a number of concerns were raised in the meeting, and she believes the concerns were heard by the relevant officials.

“We will wait to see what changes come out of it,” she said outside OPM.

“We’re going to be positive. We’re going to be hopeful.

“…We always want the public to know that they can be assured that we will not abandon them. We will be supportive and we have their interests at heart. But we have to be safe first before we can do that and before we can provide those services.

“So, we will continue to work with the government, continue to work with PHA to make sure that we are safe and providing the best care and best help to the Bahamian public.”

Basset said she is advocating for 33 doctors who were not hired to be brought on to offer some cushion when doctors are out of the system and in quarantine.

Last month, the PHA said it decided not to renew those doctors’ contracts. However, Bassett said their services would improve efficiency in the handling of the pandemic.

“We need them back in the hospital,” she said.

“We need them back to work because we are being stretched thin trying to meet the myriad of needs and the spots that they have left vacant.

“…It pays a toll on our level of performance. We need additional help and we brought that message here today when we met with the prime minister.”

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