Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By RIEL MAJOR
BAHAMAS Nurses Union president Amancha Williams on Friday repeated her appeal to the Public Hospital Authority for the consistent and timely payment of overtime each month.
Her comments come as the PHA has started payments totalling $750,000 in owed overtime to the staff for the month of February.
Mrs Williams said she was very appreciative of the PHA's show of goodwill to its staff.
The BNU president said: "The problem that we have in PHA is that we have a shortage of manpower. Changing shifts would not make a difference but working in overtime until the manpower is fulfilled will make a difference in PHA.
"Yes, you will incur overtime due to the crisis in the hospital, nurses are leaving every month so you're creating overtime. Until we have that manpower this is going to happen, but we ask PHA to continue in the goodwill by paying the overtime every month. When you do that you're providing your clients with quality service. If you don’t do that, you’re not providing your clients with quality service."
Mrs Williams said moving forward the overtime payments need to be properly managed.
She continued: "In the midst of all of that, you created a problem and you created more overtime because then what happened was you had to hire the accountants to facilitate a need to produce up to 700 cheques which requires manpower and overtime to be generated in a different area which you never had.
"We have always been, from previous director, dealing with a money shortage. But if you work five overtimes this month," Mrs Williams said, "we could have only gotten three and we would have been satisfied, but don’t tell us you don’t want to pay us none. That doesn’t make any sense, because you still owe us. And at the end of the day you have to pay money whether in the next two -three months you still have to find the money."
She added: "I would rather pay bit by bit rather than not to pay none at all. We have to really look at where we are going in the future because we have never been at this state ever. Underneath Hubert Ingraham, underneath Perry Christie we have never had this experience."
The BNU president said they don't want the nurses to be discouraged.
She said: "It’s not good for your workers, you want your workers to come out and work when you’re in a crisis. What happened we saw the disadvantage when you told the worker you were not going to pay them for overtime. There was nobody in the hospital working…you have 60 patients to four registered nurses. Come on…when those persons could have come in and work the over time."
Last month, Dr Sands said as PHA has found itself saddled with high overtime bills - at one time climbing to $750,000 in just one month - the controversial shift system for nurses has been a vexing issue.
Giving nurses what they want is not easy, he said at the time, as paying money owed to them is tied to the civil service which has restrictions on how much the government can offer or how quickly this happens.
However, he said officials have been looking at how they could possibly change the compensation for nurses.
While stressing another strike would not serve the interests of Bahamians, the minister said the government was committed to finding a real solution to the issues raised by the Bahamas Nurses Union.