‘We can’t afford nurses’ overtime’

Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.

Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.


Deputy Chief Reporter


AS the Public Hospitals Authority has found itself saddled with high overtime bills - at one time climbing to $750,000 in just one month - Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said the controversial shift system for nurses has been a vexing issue.

Giving nurses what they want is not easy, he said yesterday, 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 yesterday 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.

A panel was appointed to look at their outstanding issues and some changes made, Dr Sands said. The changes included replacing old beds at public health care facilities to address nurses complaints about back injuries. There is also about to be installation of more than ten new stations for clocking in after nurses complained those already in the hospital were not functioning properly.

His comments to the press came yesterday ahead of a statement from PHA that it was willing to re-engage the BNU in discussions over the standardised shift system. At present, of all of the PHA’s existing categories of staff, only the nursing cadre’s work schedule remains out of step with widely accepted practice, the statement further pointed out.

This statement also comes several days after BNU president Amancha Williams said talks between nurses and PHA were at an impasse.

“I’m not aware there was an impasse,” Dr Sands told reporters. “Certainly, this has not been a topical matter over the last few weeks to months. Certainly, the discussions have been more focused on the way forward in terms of retention, recruitment (and) improving the conditions of service for nurses.

“We would have had a panel to look at the outstanding issues regarding nursing in the Bahamas. We want to drill down on the specific concerns. So changing out the beds at the hospital is a major issue because of the problems with movement, back injuries and so on.

“Looking at safety, looking at being able to clock in. Nurses complained that when they clock in sometimes they have to wait ten or 15 minutes. We’re about to instal more than ten new stations to make that a bit easier.

“We’ve been looking at how we could possibly change the compensation for nurses at a very fundamental level.

“This vexing issue of the shift system gets at the very heart of the challenge that the PHA had a $750,000 overtime bill for one month and that is not sustainable and the imposition on the people of The Bahamas is huge and we now have to work together in the interest of finding some common ground as to how we can control this runaway expenditure.”

In its statement yesterday, PHA maintained the shift system has many benefits, in clear conflict with Ms Williams’ position on it. On Friday, she insisted no nurse would work under the system.

“Late last year, the PHA announced that it would defer its original implementation date of December 10, 2018,” the statement said. “While no new implementation date was given, the authority maintained that it was open to further discussions with the BNU in an effort to arrive at a compromise regarding the amount of compensation proposed via a shift premium, recognising that the authority has limited financial resources to support this initiative,” the statement read.

“The original proposal provided compensation for nurses scheduled to work between the hours of 6pm to 6am of $1.75 per hour in addition to their regular pay.

“The PHA maintains that the successful implementation of the new shift system will: establish a standardised eight-hour daily shift and a 40-hour work week which greatly improves our ability to roster nurses; improve the delivery of healthcare and ensure better patient outcomes through better nursing coverage; reduce the number of accidents and errors given the reduced hours of work during the night shift — eight hours compared to ten and eliminate inequities of the current night shift system that allows nurses to work four days then be awarded four nights off, resulting in night duty nurses to be on paid leave for 77 more days per year compared to nurses that work day shifts.”


Chucky 5 years ago

If they work the overtime you have to pay them.

This is just one of the reasons the health care plan will not work.

Canada's health system costs $6000.00 cad per capita annually.

Only a fool would think we can do it cheaper.


bogart 5 years ago

WEEEELLLLLL MONKEY ONCLE.....!!!!!!!!!!!! NOONE SHOULD ....BE UTTERING ....SUCH STATEMENTS.....THAT THE NURSES....WHO HAVE EARNED .......NO MATTER WHATEVER...even if dey work standing upside down....THEY HAVE WORKED ....CANNOT ......work people an dont want pay them.... DENIAL....STALLING....ADVISING....PROTRACTION....STENCHING......TO LEGAL WORKERS....WHO EARNED DERE PAY.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! First fire the incompetants Senior staff...who make dis go on an on an on.....who created such situation..STOP SHIELDING DEM....obviously ..!!!!!!!!!!.....Employ new competent EXECUTIVES...SENIOR DECISION MAKERS...!!!!!!!....OVA LIKE ONE CENTURY AGO.....FORD MOTORS COMPANY.....CAPABLE OF ANALYSING ERRY ...TIME AN MOTION STUDY.....FOR THE PUTTING TOGETHER STAFF IN EFFICIENTLY.....CREATING AN AUTOMOBILE.....thousands of parts ...to run da car......!!!!!!!!!.......IF THE AUTHORITIES CANNOT PROPERLY EFFICIENTLY RUN THE HOSPITAL.....THEN DEY MUST BE FIRED...FIRED....!!!!!!! HAVING NURSES WORK.....AN CANT GET PAID.......IS TANTAMONT TO BLATENTLY VICTIMIZING THE WORKERS....DEMORALIZING STAFF....CREATING UNDUE FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS....an the doctors done gettin straigh wid salary ..?!!!!! 1.....If Doc achknowledges sugary drinks harming healts...creating patients.... an other countries tax it... then impose taxes....stop shielding da muck a mucks......2.......Impose Income taxes an Corporate taxes...like NewZealand an Barbados copied only the VAT...stop shielding rich.....3....How noone yet jailed reponsible fer incompetance...no investigations in public money ...financial fiascos...huge contracts cost overruns...????....


sheeprunner12 5 years ago

What is so wrong with putting the nurses on a shift system????? In some countries, they have individual schools on a shift system to allow children to get a few hours of education each day ........... SMH


Dawes 5 years ago

Maybe Government shouldn't give all these tax concessions to huge corporations that come here. That would fund the overtime. Anyway as has already been mentioned if they work overtime they should be paid overtime. Normally i do not side with the union, but on this they are right and if i was them i would work my shift and go.


geostorm 5 years ago

@Dawes, they are paid for the overtime that they work. The Minister is just suggesting that the amount paid out each month can not be sustained. With the implementation of the 40 hour shift system, they would not have to pay overtime. The nurses do not want to work 40 hour per week because they would only get 2 days off. They can not moonlight when they have 2 days off. They want the 4 days off to work at other entities or private homes.


Dawes 5 years ago

Ahh i stand corrected, Thank you.


geostorm 5 years ago

I don't know about the rest of you Tribune readers, but I don't believe it is wise to pay out $750,000 per month in overtime. Have these people lost your minds? How is that sustainable? Put those nurses on a shift system!! There is absolutely no way the public purse can keep up with that. If they don't like 40 hours a week with 2 days off, then they can look elsewhere. There are people in other places around the world who would be happy to work in that system.

We have allowed our country to be controlled by unions and their unreasonable demands. It's time that we look at our financial position with a view of getting our fiscal house in order, and that's all across the public service. If we are allowed to continue in this manner, we will definitely lose our country. We CAN NOT spend what we do not have!


DDK 5 years ago

The nurses' demands for overtime are probably unreasonable if they put out like the majority of government employees in this sick country. Why has government not insisted on shift work, thus eliminating overtime? Too difficult to come up with schedules? At the same time, the fact that government cannot afford hospital beds and overtime when applicable but can GIVE AWAY millions every year to every foreign entity that comes its way is more than sickening, it is deplorable. SMT.


realfreethinker 5 years ago

DDK I wish you all would stop saying government is giving away money with these concessions. Government is not giving any money away. If the foreign companies don't come then government won,t be collecting anything.


joeblow 5 years ago

... now you know full well that the government cannot and does not negotiate from a position of strength, so by default they give away more than they have too!


TalRussell 5 years ago

Yes, yes and yes, if you don't want encounter a single nurse, nor medical doctor at PMH, hire comrade Dr. Duane as minister health....... If you don't want encounter a single one original 400 Grand Lucayan hotel's workers - hire Dionisio James send them all home with pockets lined PeoplePublicPurse's loot, yes, no.... Why make such pretense to save 400 hotel workers jobs up.... soon Grand Lucayan will have as many workers on payroll as on best fantasy OBAN day, yes, no?


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