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‘We Can’T Submit To Every Demand’

Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.

Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

ALL but five registered and trained clinical nurses returned to work yesterday bringing an end to a “peculiar” “sick out,” which affected patient care at public medical facilities throughout the country, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday, adding “tension” remains over this matter.

However, Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams told The Tribune some nurses were still sick while others reported for duty. Ms Williams was adamant during a passionate interview that the issues far exceeded a 12-hour shift system foreign nurses who are not a part of the union have been asked to work.

The matters of contention range from the failure of successive administrations to confirm nurses, outstanding mileage and hardship allowances, a four to 20 nurse to patient ratio and the overall treatment of nurses among other things.

She said nurses were waiting for the issues to be resolved as was promised in an earlier conversation with Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

Ms Williams also accused Dr Sands of portraying nurses as “heartless”.

Speaking ahead of Cabinet yesterday, Dr Sands said the country will have to address how sick outs are used as a tool by workers in the country.

Meanwhile, Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip “Brave” Davis said the political directorate must be more responsive to the concerns of nurses.

According to a breakdown from the Ministry of Health obtained by The Tribune on Monday, 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.

“At the Princess Margaret Hospital, we would have had a total of five people call in thus far, but that is probably not anything other than the usual. So it appears as if the nurses are no longer ill,” Dr Sands told reporters yesterday.

He also said: “We recognise that there is only so long that you could continue that. And so the fact that it appears that the nurses are back to work is a wonderful thing.

“We will sit down at the table again and we will continue the negotiations and discussions. There is an obligatory tension that while the union may want a particular benefit for its membership, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the people of the Bahamas or the government of the Bahamas has to capitulate to every single demand. We understand that demands can be reasonable, but some demands can be unreasonable or the timeline is not appropriate.

“But I am open. I will give Ms Williams a call today (yesterday). She and I were able to speak yesterday (Monday) afternoon and this is never personal. The union must do what the union must do, but the minister and the government must also do what it must do to protect the interest of the Bahamian people.”

Regarding BNU’s grievances, Dr Sands said some of the issues were resolved.

“We have been actively involved in dealing with the chronic issues plaguing nurses. The issue of mileage allowance would have been brought up. We employed the help of the Director of Labour (Robert Farquharson). We would have seen to it that some $55,000 of outstanding mileage accrual for a group of nurses was placed on the pay sheet and the expectation was that they should have had that money in their accounts last payday.

“We now need to confirm whether those instructions were carried out by finance and treasury. But certainly, if it was not on the pay sheet in April I am advised that it will definitely be on the pay sheet in May.

“In terms of the confirmation of nurses three years, five years, ten years - we have moved aggressively to deal with these issues that have been outstanding for a decade. The matter of the four on four off (work roster), the Public Hospitals Authority had not implemented the change in shift system. And so, to disadvantage the public of the basis of a conversation to me is unfortunate.”

Ms Williams seemed yesterday to take issue with Dr Sands’ public pronouncements about the matter. She said nurses simply wanted their problems to be fixed.

She said: “I have spoken to the prime minister. He assured me that this would take place.

“The mileage was not paid and you are making the public believe we are heartless. We realise that we are the gatekeepers. But the government must realise that these gatekeepers have families. Who is looking out for us when we look out for everyone else?

“We haven’t had hurricane payment and the hurricane season is about to start again. There has been no confirmation of nurses since 2012. Nurses can’t go to the bank for a house.

“We aren’t blaming this government. We are blaming the two (previous) governments, but we are asking the minister to fix it.”

For his part during a press conference yesterday, Mr Davis said the approach must be in the context of acknowledging nurses trained in the Bahamas are being poached and offered better emoluments and salaries overseas, adding the government should be sensitive to their issues.

“Stop just describing the problems and start prescribing solutions,” Mr Davis said yesterday.

Comments

TheMadHatter 1 year, 7 months ago

Davis has the nerve to open his mouth on this issue? LOL

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bogart 1 year, 7 months ago

Nurses using their vehicles for work and to obtain gas mileage.....and the autjorities STENCHING over ....$55,000. OUTSTANDING ....!!!!.......using your own vehicle for medical work......an aint gets paid.....WELL .....news flash!!!...first the vehicle insurance contract says private or public use .....next what happens of diring the use of the vehicle the nurse is in an accident..who pays...liable.....next what about the other costs if the wheel gets broken in a pothole.who pays???.....as the $55,000. Figure has been paid...is the govt complicit in participating in a questionable avt of the nurses using their privately insured vehicle for another purpose???.

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joeblow 1 year, 7 months ago

What many do not know or understand is that this issue is much larger than the public is aware. The nurses have been raping the public treasure with overtime benefits for decades. The 12 hr work shifts ( which are standard in many countries) will remove that "benefit" they have been getting.

That is what this issue is really about!

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree it's all about them being angry that the foreign nurses working the 12 hour shift will reduce their overtime pay. I have never heard a Bahamian workforce argue that their foreign counterparts are being overworked. Leslie Miller has this EXACT same fight with the WSC Union. EXACT. If I remember correctly he wanted to implement a shift system to reduce the overtime.

All the other things are camouflage .

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 7 months ago

she seems to be backing down from the Doctor. she said it is not his fault it is the others fault. but he is the Government.

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bogart 1 year, 7 months ago

....'others' refers to others from the 10 years ago as in 2 former govts terms of 5 years per term why matters have not been resolved. Roc wid Doc promptly spoke and so diid Dr Sands.

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Socrates 1 year, 7 months ago

Doc is right about the 'sick out'. it has to be addressed as its an illegal work stoppage. name one time in bahamian history when massive numbers of employees working for the same employer all called in sick and no contract dispute was in play... have balls, strike and let the man decide what his counter move will be, but stop hiding behind these illegal woirk stoppages and unlawful withdrawal of services.

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bogart 1 year, 7 months ago

The government has already set aside to pay to settle some issues. This clearly demonstrates that this could have been resolved past 10 years ago with different govt. There would be senior officials who then could have recommended payment but obviously wasnt successfull, but now with the revealing stories of millions for over sozed clinics to serve few patients, new clinics cannot be staffed when existing is understaffed, etcetc. Somehow appears that persons may have kept quiet over the past years. One reason that have come up in the past is victimizatio, keep quiet, need noone to labek you not a team player, need to have that paycheck to feed children, blood pressure already high.....there must be some Authority where the small man, pore can get matters resolved instead as some allegedly used to do an wait outside Papas gate.

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