‘Sick Out’ Nurses Turn The Screw

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff


Deputy Chief Reporter


MORE than 200 registered and trained clinical nurses staged a “sick out” yesterday amid mounting tensions between Bahamas Nurses Union and the Public Hospitals Authority over long-standing issues.

One point of contention is a 12-hour shift foreign nurses, who are not a part of the union, have been asked to work.

According to a breakdown from the Ministry of Health obtained by The Tribune, 213 nurses – 100 from Princess Margaret Hospital, Sandilands and Rand Memorial Hospital – and 113 from clinics in New Providence and those in the Family Islands – phoned in to report illnesses preventing them from coming to work.

As a result, there were several instances where procedures scheduled months in advance had to be either cancelled or postponed and patient care was interrupted, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said. Patients were also prematurely discharged and others who travelled to the capital for procedures had to be turned away.

It is unclear how long the nurses will continue this action.

Asked whether there would be consequences for the nurses, Dr Sands said that line of questioning would not do any good to the challenges now before the government.

BNU President Amancha Williams declined comment when she was contacted.

However, Dr Sands said this was obvious industrial action. He also expressed some degree of confusion regarding this issue telling The Tribune many of the concerns dated back 10 years. He said since last week, the government and PHA had been attempting to facilitate a meeting with the union without success. He said any meeting to be held now would be up to the discretion of BNU.

When he spoke to the matter early yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis expressed optimism the issues would be resolved amicably and “immediately.” He was asked about the situation on the sidelines of his birthday celebration with students at the Gambier Primary School.

He said: “I spoke with the nurses’ union president this morning just before I came here and they had some issues that have not been resolved including scheduling and I assured her. I spoke to my minister and the scheduling should be placed on hold and the whole issue of the ministry, the personnel and the nurses’ union should now meet so we can come to an amicable resolution. We had a very good conversation and I think the nurses would be back (to work) tomorrow (Tuesday).

“As you know nurses play a pivotal role, in fact one of the most important roles in the healthcare sector. I always remind people that when I practised medicine a long time ago, the nurses went on industrial unrest and the hospital was then ran by physicians because the nurses withdrew their services.”

The prime minister continued: “It was then that all of us doctors appreciated how important the nurses are to healthcare. It was after 48 hours of us working nonstop we could not function any longer and we had to inform the government that they must get the nurses back to work because we can no longer carry the healthcare system. So the nurses are very, very important and I think the entire Bahamas must understand that and we will treat them accordingly.”

Dr Sands said despite the sick out, the government was still committed to resolving the issues.

“Some services had to be dramatically curtailed,” Dr Sands said. “But I would have walked around the hospital and I was quite pleased to see that a number of staff were there and patients were being seen.

“At the end of the day it is obvious this it is an industrial action.

“There are people that have had their procedures postponed or cancelled and it’s very unfortunate given the fact that we have said we will address the issues, many of which have been outstanding for 10 years.

“We remain committed to resolving all of the long-standing issues separate and apart, but that can only be done within the reality of life in the Bahamas.

“We have offered ourselves for negotiation since last week and the previous week so it really is a matter of when they are prepared to come to the table,” Dr Sands said when he was asked when all parties would come to the table to negotiate.

“I spoke to the union president today and again this is an unfortunate development and again we have to put the interest of the public first,” he also said.

Early last month, Ms Williams said the union still intended to hold a strike vote despite filing a formal trade dispute.

At the time, she said: “We are still going to go ahead and do what we have to do.”

It came the day after Labour Director Robert Farquharson said he was hopeful all grievances on the table could be amicably resolved.

Ms Williams said the union had no faith in the process.

The union threatened industrial action over a dispute with PHA concerning expatriate nurses on contract being asked to work 12-hour shifts.

Ms Williams previously said while that matter specifically impacts expatriate nurses, it still concerns those covered by the union.

There are 1,500 nurses in the public health sector.


TheMadHatter 1 year, 10 months ago

If the government was capable of tracking the sources of funds and allocating spefically sourced funds to specific purposes, they could add a 5cents per gallon gas & diesel tax and add that income specifically to nurses salaries.

Few would have a problem with that and it would help ensure that "generator people" pay their fair share of health costs.

However, as VAT as proven, our people at Finance do not have that level of accounting acumen. Still today under a new govt we don't know where our VAT money goes. It was supposed to toward paying foreign debt - but we are told it all just goes into the big Convoluted Fund. :-)


hrysippus 1 year, 10 months ago

If you get sick in Nassau today, ................................... ........ .... . You better also get ready for passing away, . . . . ... Write out your will and tidy your stuff, . . . . . . .. Cos them Bahamian nurses are working enough, . . . . .. And they don't want them foreigners working twelve hours a shift, . . . .. If they working so long it will cause a rift, . . . . . .... Our true-true nurses can't work for such long time, . . . . . A More than eight hour shift is practically a crime, . . . . . . .. So them nurses gonna lie and plenty call in unwell, . . . . ... . And them patients in the hospital? Well they can go to Help. Themselves


Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 10 months ago

Unfortunately the relationship between doctors and nurses in today's Bahamas is little different from the relationship between masters and their slaves in yesterday's Bahamas. Although both groups today are the same colour and work equally hard for the most part, the economic divide between them is huge and most unfair to say the least. Much like priests and nuns in the Catholic Church. One group has all of their wants and needs attended to and the other group suffers the consequences of that reality.


bogart 1 year, 10 months ago

Of all the people doctors who should know what the end tesults would be if you do not examine, diagnose the illness and offer prompt treatment. This is a clear case of malpractice and heads must roll.

The nurses union must be sympathised with if these greviences have been going on for so long and being care providers must have endured their suffering until they could abdolutely take it no more. Nurses should not be pushed past their limit.

Heads must roll whosoever has caused all these nurses to collectively take this drastic action and pointless after the fact for everyone to realise how important nurses are to the well being to the pore an sic.


hrysippus 1 year, 9 months ago

Bogert, have you read the article? Their major concern is that the foreign nurses being hired are being contracted to work 12hr shifts for less days instead of 8 hour shifts for more days. The union worried about contracts of people who are not even members. I worked as an auxiliary nurse when young, changes in shifts worked sometimes meant off at 11pm and back on at 7am. Nursing is not a 9 to 5 business, it is 24 hour a day work. Don't become a nurse if you do not understand this.


sealice 1 year, 9 months ago

So there's no difference in service at any of the clinics unless they are staffed by foreign nurses.... way to go Bahamian nurses.....keep your (not so hard) hard work.....


sealice 1 year, 9 months ago

Way to go Bahamian nurses stay on strike so all the foreign nurses can take of your brethren.... whom you clearly DGAF about.....You complaining about their hours just because you don't like being compared to foreign nurses who are willing to work and put in the hours??? this stinks of the arguments about Haitian labour and why they are so readily hired = they want to work and will put in the hours unlike as we see all our "sick" bahamian nurses.... thanks for nothin again


sheeprunner12 1 year, 9 months ago

Nurses should be in the same category as policemen ........ they cannot form unions.


bogart 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks hrysippus, see your point about the hours and that it appearsthat the industrial action was over the hours of the expats. The story cites 'issues' plural several times and knowing our people they just aint going to strike to benefit ferrigners unless the agenda had to do with items they too been trying to get resolved for 10 years which would obviously be money issues..... and given the govt tightness Dr Sands stating many of the issues dated...... 'given the fact that we have daid we will address the issues, many of which have been outstanding for 10 years.' The Bahamian nurses just used the ferreign hours issue to start the negotiations......remember fer 10 years nobody paid no mind. Later today this govt official official on radio started talking on zns news about monies owed will bo on their accounts if it wasnt already done by payday.


bogart 1 year, 9 months ago

Oh...hysippus good to see you back see I told you it could have been rain causing static on the phone lines which probably likely affrcta all of us.


hrysippus 1 year, 9 months ago

it did not rain today, also I had M.Dames Private Security Services check my lines and they reported that they were clear. Not too sure about the little box with an aerial sticking out which they seem to have left behind in my fuse box where the lines come into the house though.....


bogart 1 year, 9 months ago

...having read about the electronic monitored guys put aluminum foil over there device ......mabye get your electrican to do the ferl ting


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