Princess Margaret Hospital. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff
By RIEL MAJOR
THIRTY Bahamian nurses left Princess Margaret Hospital in a span of two months, Bahamas Nurses Union president Amancha Williams said yesterday.
The BNU president is calling for a solution relating to nurses being paid outstanding overtime.
Ms Williams told The Tribune: “The overtime occurred in the month of February and it is not just the nurses. It is the porters, maids, X-ray department, the ECG department. It is everybody who works in PMH, not just the nurses.
“I am the president that is speaking up for the nurses. There are other unions and they’ve already told their members not to work the overtime if the government is not going to pay them. So, let the hospital remain dirty, nobody to sweep it, nobody to mop it, nobody to clean up the bathrooms…let the hospital remain dirty. No X-rays will be done if you don’t pay the people. No blood works will be done and definitely no nurse will be working overtime if it’s not paid.”
Ms Williams, pictured right, said 30 nurses left the public healthcare system in December 2018 and January 2019 from the ICU and the NCU.
She said: “Not foreign nurses, Bahamian nurses (left)…doesn’t that speak volumes? Obviously, you have incurred a shortage. Shift change will not make a difference if you have a manpower shortage. You will incur overtime so you can’t tell the individual you can’t pay them.
“‘Do you work (at) Wendy’s overtime and not be paid? No, do you work the gas station and not get paid? No…why are we doing it in the hospital? Then what you saying to your nurses is they don’t really need you, so the nurse is going to go out and work somewhere else and realise her employer respects her and she is going to quit PMH and you’re going to have more nurses leave…30 plus another 30.
“The employer must be able to treat the employees reasonable, respectable in order to keep the function of an institution. Duane Sands isn’t making no sense. ‘You ain’t got no money? What you mean you ain’t got no money?’ This government promised it was going to be better for the past two years. For the nurses, we’ve been catching hell. Qualified nurses…you don’t appreciate us. We are spending 16 hours in your institution. You are begging us to stay because (you don’t) have nobody.”
Last year, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands acknowledged a critical shortage of nurses in public healthcare, saying more than 600 were needed to fill the gaps.
The BNU received a strike certificate in December 2018 and have alluded to possible strike action over outstanding issues.
When asked about the nurses’ stance on a possible strike, Ms Williams said yesterday: “At the end of the day I really don’t want to talk about the strike because if we strike…could you imagine? We have a shortage now, who you think gone hold up your fort. Wouldn’t we be putting our country in a serious state?
“(A strike) would not be in the interest of the Bahamian people so why are you pushing these people to a level that you don’t want them to get.
BNU and the government have been at an impasse regarding overtime pay and a new shift system the Public Hospitals Authority wants to implement.
On Tuesday, 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 on Tuesday, 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.