Princess Margaret Hospital. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
STAFF members of the housekeeping department at Princess Margaret Hospital are complaining about feeling unsafe and also neglected by the Public Hospitals Authority as they go about their duties facing the possibility of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
A female staff member of the housekeeping department tested positive for COVID-19 recently. She eventually died, however officials have not said if she died because of the disease. Princess Margaret Hospital officials have said the 64-year-old health institution is overwhelmed due to COVID-19 cases and it was known that several staff members had contracted the virus while many others were put in quarantine.
“We are the main ones going from ward to ward and yet we do not feel safe,” said a Tribune source from the housekeeping department. “We walk around with all kinds of people who are showing symptoms and no one does anything. Every so often someone might speak up about it, but it doesn’t matter. We are just looked at as the maids, or whatever, so we are not important.
“When the administration (department) had their case, they moved the moon and the stars immediately to get the place clean and everyone was quarantined and tested. That did not happen to us. They asked us if we felt like we had any symptoms. Our co-worker had symptoms, she still was working and then it got worse she got really sick and died. It’s like no stoppage of anything for us. No quarantining, just show up the next day and work. We are of no importance to these people.”
The employee said PMH is a ticking time bomb and as far as housekeeping staff is concerned they do their best to keep things clean, but more is needed to be done.
Asked if the housekeeping staff contacted union reps, the housekeeping source said, “They are not checking for us. They are interested in winning elections and that’s all. These people will not even get us tested, knowing that we move around the hospital from place to place and this place is loaded with COVID. I found myself coughing last week. Thank God it was just a sinus drain. No one even asked me if I was okay.
“You asked me if we got no results why we didn’t take our concerns to the minister of health, well as far as we are concerned, he is not one of us. He has never worked in the health field and he will more than likely not even understand what we are going through so why even bother to contact him so we can hear more bull crap. Now if we choose not to show up to work one day because of our fears, then what?”
The Tribune tried to contact Health Minister Renward Wells, but there was no answer or return call from him.
When contacted, PHA managing director Catherine Weech was surprised that the housekeeping department had raised an alarm in the media. She tried to justify why more attention was perceived to be shown to the administration areas when staff tested positive.
“The situations are different,” said Ms Weech. “For them (Housekeeping Department) they are rostered throughout the hospital as opposed to an administration department which is in one area. So clearly if you have persons stationed in one area then you have to treat it differently as opposed to persons who are deployed throughout the hospital.
“I spoke with the hospital administrator. She said they had a meeting with the staff and all of that information was explained to them so I am not sure why they are continuing to pursue that. “They had a death in the housekeeping department. The housekeeping staff are trained, they wear PPEs and that’s how we are managing it. Can you imagine if we were to close down a ward every time we have an incident, then what happens to all of our patients?”
Ms Weech confidently spoke to the aggressive training programme offered to PMH’s housekeepers. She said they go on to the wards fully geared in the necessary protective equipment. She also said safety is something that PHA has been promoting with staff, continues to promote and the housekeeping staff is no different.
According to Ms Weech, the hospital follows national guidelines on how to manage any identification of positive patients. So, she said, they have a system where Employee Health intervenes, the contact tracing element comes in and then there is a risk measurement as it relates to whether one is on the low, medium or high scale.
The Tribune also contacted Bahamas Public Servants Union president, Kimsley Ferguson, who said he could not comment because he only knew that someone from the housekeeping department died, but had no other details.