Sands: We’ll have to work hard to solve any impasse


Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.


Tribune Staff Reporter


HEALTH Minister Duane Sands has said the government and Bahamas Nurses Union will have to “work aggressively” to move beyond the current impasse in negotiations.

Speaking to reporters yesterday outside Cabinet, Dr Sands referenced the ongoing discussions with the union and also addressed rumours that Princess Margaret Hospital staff did not receive overtime pay for December.Last month, BNU members overwhelming voted in favour of a strike.


Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

When asked if he is concerned that nurses will use their strike certificate in the near future, Dr Sands replied: “As I’ve said repeatedly when we get to the point of an impasse that any aggrieved party believes that industrial action is the only option or the preferred option, then the public certainly doesn’t benefit and the most important stakeholder in this whole situation are the patients, the patients, the people of The Bahamas.

“And I think that we have to work aggressively to try and figure out how you get beyond an impasse.”

The Health Minister also referenced deadlocks in other countries, such as the ongoing United States government shutdown.

“In the most wealthy country in the world, the government is shutdown now and there doesn’t seem to be an ability to reach a compromise so it suggests that this can happen and that sometimes you need to come at it from a different angle, sometimes walk away from the table for a bit and then approach it again.

“These are contentious, serious issues. There is a lot of passion, people believe the positions that they have taken and we should— while we may disagree, we should try not to be disagreeable.”

One major source of contention between the government and BNU is a proposed new shift system, which was to be implemented last month but was postponed indefinitely due to intense pushback from the union.

When asked if there were any updates regarding those discussions, Dr Sands said he spoke with BNU president Amancha Williams earlier yesterday morning.

“There are other issues that we are talking about, looking at conditions in certain facilities and so on and so forth, and so yes that is an issue that remains on the table and we believe that effective dialogue should move that forward,” he said.

Dr Sands could not say whether the ministry would be able to develop a failsafe plan that would prevent nurses from withholding services, but ultimately highlighted nurses’ importance to healthcare.

“There is no such thing as a failsafe plan. Nurses are an important part of the healthcare team. They always have been, they always will be. And so, to imagine that you can move forward without nurses is a nonstarter. Full stop.”

The health minister also responded to reports that PMH employees would not receive overtime pay this month.

“There was a memo that was circulated over the weekend, suggesting that there would be no overtime paid for overtime worked in December,” Dr Sands said.

“I can say to you categorically that the staff — nurses, line staff, etc — will be paid their overtime. This was an aggressive response to try and reduce challenges with deficits by individuals without the ratification of the senior management.

“So, let me say it again, overtime worked during December will be paid this month.”


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