By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
STANDING in solidarity with their counterparts in New Providence, nurses on Grand Bahama staged a protest outside Rand Memorial Hospital yesterday morning to voice their disapproval over an eight-hour shift change that is being implemented by the Public Hospitals Authority.
Registered Nurse Ashnell Missick claimed the new shift schedule is unacceptable for nurses because it would negatively affect their job performance and the quality of healthcare for patients, among other things.
She suggested that a 12-hour shift should be implemented instead as a pilot study to assess which shift would be better for nurses on Grand Bahama.
"I feel we had a good turnout of nurses (this morning) as most of us work the ten-hour shift that they are trying to eliminate," she said, adding that nurses in all areas of the hospital would be affected by the shift change.
In August, PHA issued a notice that a standardised 40 hour a week, eight-hour shift system would be implemented. It also noted that there would be a shift premium period of $1.75 per hour, between the hours of 6pm and 6am, and rest period between shifts of 10 hours minimum. The new shift is set to come into force in December.
The PHA maintained yesterday it is not backing down on the new shift system because it has a legally enforceable agreement with BNU, signed in 2014 by its former president, which allows for a 40-hour workweek consisting of eight hour shifts.
But according to Ms Missick, the new changes are "unacceptable" and present serious problems for nurses.
"It does not give the average nurse sufficient sleep time, family time, or no time, and with that you will have nurses burned out," she complained.
The nurse believes that it could lead to medical mistakes and errors, and thereby affect the quality of healthcare to patients.
"We don't want that happening; we want nurses to stay and provide quality healthcare to their patients," she stressed. "And in order for that to happen conditions have to be conducive for nurses to work.
"Imagine, you have a nurse coming to work 8am, and the next day having to work the night shift and come back on the late shift from 3pm -11pm or 4pm-12am, and have issues at home, and still has to function at work and deal with people - that is not acceptable," she said.
She also took issue with the shift premium of $1.75, comparing the amount to a "bottle of soda and a couple change in your pocket."
"That is not acceptable - we are professionals. We all went to school to better ourselves to provide quality care; we don't deserve $1.75," she said.
Kirkland Russell, vice president of the northern region of the Commonwealth Bahamas Trade Union Congress, and Quinton Laroda, vice president of the northern region of NTCUB and co-chairman of newly formed group called the Coalition for Labour, supported the nurses.
Mr Russell said the eight-hour shift schedule would place unbearable burden and hardship on nurses.
"These are the persons who take care of the sick and elderly; these are the persons who make the utmost sacrifice to make sure we are a healthy nation," he said.
"If they are not going to treat our nurses with decency and respect, or respect nurses' union or the unions in this country, we are going to have mass exodus of our skilled labour, including Bahamian nurses," Mr Russell said.
"We call on the minister of health to cease and desist his action and to sit and meet with nurses' union to resolve the issues," he said.