By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH the Bahamas Nurses Union’s elections scheduled for today, the contesting team, led by former BNU president Jannah Khalfani, is maintaining the current executive board had an “easy run” thanks to the work her administration accomplished prior to this current term.
During a press conference held at the House of Labour yesterday, Ms Khalfani outlined recruitment and retainment of nurses as one of the major platforms of her team.
She also said this current executive team, led by BNU president Amancha Williams, should have capitalised on the recent industrial action of the country’s senior doctors to “reap some benefits” regarding salary increases, as well as the willingness of Health Minister Dr Duane Sands to increase nurses’ salaries.
Ms Khalfani also addressed the BNU’s strike certificate, which the union overwhelmingly voted to obtain last December.
“Honestly, a strike should be the last resort,” Ms Khalfani said. “And it’s not something that I am happy about when it happens. Because you’re talking about a very sensitive profession, you’re talking about people that are taking care of the nation, and you can’t take that lightly.
“So that striking and having to obtain that, I hope that moving forward, especially after we win, that we don’t have to take those roads. That we are more mature now and the powers to be have learnt, and we have learnt, how to do this and do it right.”
When asked what she would have done differently from this current board, Ms Khalfani pointed to the consultant physicians’ strike and working along with Dr Sands.
“The executives that served between 2016-2019 really had an easy run,” she continued. “Because most of the more important things we had already accomplished. And I still feel as if there are some things that should have been capitalised on, that didn’t happen.
“If you remember when the senior doctors had their strike, the nurses could have capitalised on that and we could have been able to reap some benefits from that pertaining to the salary scales.
“(Dr Sands) wanted to..bring the nursing salary scales up to a decent (level), at least that the nurse can go in the bank and take out a loan for a house. But that wasn’t capitalised on either. There should have been discussions with Dr Sands so that it could have happened. But you know, the Khalfani team, we have a track record of getting the job done. And we are centred and focused on the well-being of the nurses in the (country).”
Ms Khalfani noted the existing industrial agreement, 2015-2020, was negotiated under her leadership. She also said that her team secured “injury in the line of duty” benefits for nurses who die on the job to obtain a “substantial amount of money”.
“We got, this year October, we should have an extension in the salary scales of two increments. We will also have $1,200 added to the base salary,” she said.
Ms Khalfani also referred to the certification nurses must have every two years. She called for a method to be put in place whereby the nurses’ employers bring people in to certify the entire department at once, thereby ensuring nurses keep abreast of these matters.
“(The union has to) step up a little bit further with that, whereby we too can sponsor some of the nurses who want to further their education,” she added.
Ms Khalfani served as the BNU’s first vice president from 2000-2013. She served as president from 2013-2016.
Ms Williams declined to comment on Ms Khalfani’s statement.