Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams said yesterday that the government does not seem to have a comprehensive plan to combat COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
“I have never gotten a plan yet about what is happening and the way to move forward,” she told The Nassau Guardian yesterday when called for comment.
“My nurses have been calling me and expressing to me where they want them to go and what they want them to do, and they have never sent the union one plan for moving forward.”
Nurse Bernadette Rolle recently died from COVID-19. Health officials said 72 health workers contracted COVID-19 since July.
Healthcare union leaders previously raised concerns about the safety of their members due to 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.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis promised that he would meet with union leaders weekly to address any concerns they had.
“Healthcare-wise, I haven’t gotten the first plan yet,” Williams said.
“[I] have never seen it. We are operating in some funny ways and to me, for intelligent people, it should never be.”
Williams said she currently knows of three nurses who are hospitalized with COIVD-19.
“Presently, I have, what I know of and who I’m communicating with, three nurses presently in the hospital,” she said.
She said the nurses are disgruntled, noting that they continue to face issues with the timely provision of personal protective equipment. She said that while she understands sometimes it may take longer for orders to be filled, those in charge must be more proactive.
Williams also called for the faster testing of healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19, and noted that infected health workers should have access to the best care in the country.
She said she will meet with Minister of Health Renward Wells today to discuss the union’s concerns.
Williams’ comments came as Dr. Locksley Munroe, consultant general surgeon, told The Guardian that the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) is overwhelmed.
“The situation is such that it’s overwhelming,” he said.
Munroe said healthcare workers continue to be exposed to COVID-19 and taken out of the system.
He also said that he is not sure there is an adequate plan in place to combat the virus in The Bahamas.
“From a healthcare standpoint, no, we don’t have the capacity to deal with it like that,” he said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced plans to relax restrictions that were implemented to slow the spread of the virus. He said New Providence is seeing positive trends and the need for a hard lockdown was not necessary.
The announcement came only a week after Minnis implemented an immediate lockdown of New Providence due to rising cases, before reversing the decision in response to widespread backlash.
He said the latest change in course was based on new advice from health officials.
Munroe said that given that COVID-19 will likely be around for a long time with no cure or vaccine available, he supports the decision to relax restrictions. However, he noted that people must take personal responsibility in combating the novel coronavirus.
“I don’t 100 percent disagree with him,” he said.
“This problem has been going on since November of last year. It struck us this year and in March, we went on lockdown. So, in the last nine or 10 months, what are the lessons that we have learnt?
“[T]he prime minister cannot force you to act with common sense. You, the general public, have to act with common sense, because when you don’t, you are putting the country at humongous risk.”
He added, “After 10 months, you cannot be on lockdown, depending on some food bank, depending on some charity, depending on NIB. You have to be productive.
“[But] it has to be done in a safe environment.”
Munroe added, “If you all need to go back to work, you all need to understand you have to be careful.”
Williams also stressed the need for the public to act responsibly.
“It is reliant on me and you as Bahamians to determine if we want to live or if we want to die,” she said.
“[W]e can’t have a big party on the beach. If 50 of us are diagnosed with COVID, there’s no space. Where are you going to go? You have to be sensible.”
Williams added, “So, at this point, we’re telling the public, we may not have a lockdown, but we still have to practice social distancing, hand-washing and wearing our masks and reporting any flu-like symptoms.”