By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONGOING staff shortages coupled with rising COVID-19 cases continue to strain nurses on the frontline fight against COVID.
President of the Nurses Association of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas Rebecca Johnson raised alarm about the situation yesterday, which she said has not only exhausted workers physically, but also mentally.
“Definitely, you have burn-out,” she said. “You have a lot of nurses who were working a lot of hours because we’ve always had a shortage of nurses so you could imagine with this (pandemic) putting extra strain on our nurses.
“You have nurses who are, because of the COVID-19 situation in some instances, have been exposed and have to stay away from their families and have to stay away from their friends so it is not a good feeling.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in The Bahamas, there has been fear and uncertainty among nurses, with officials telling this newspaper that workers “feel burnt out” and “discouraged from volunteering their services” due to the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, Ms Johnson spoke briefly about the vulnerability of healthcare workers.
She said while workers had known from the beginning what their job would entail, “no one figured that we would sign up to this extent”.
She said: “This is our profession and this is what we signed up to do but no one figured that we would sign up to this extent because even soldiers when you go to war, you go to war with hopes you’re coming back home.
“So being faced with a potentially deadly disease is not easy and so we put on our mask because we fear and we feel that we can help and we are being trained to help but at the same time, there’s fear and there’s concern for us and our families.”
Despite these concerns, the association president said nurses are willing to work and do what’s necessary to protect the health of the country.
“We’re willing to do what we have to do to maintain the health status and help to get our country back in terms of health status, economic status, but it is not easy for the nurses,” she added. “Whether you’re working directly with the COVID patients or in the regular health setting, it’s a lot of extra stress on the nurses that we didn’t have before in the beginning of the year.
“So, we’re going to do our best. We are determined and we are committed to journey on. We have to because we have to preserve our country.”
She added the association is also willing to work with the Public Hospitals Authority to address nurses’ concerns.
“We met with some of the nurses first and found out what some of the issues were and some of the main concerns,” she told reporters yesterday.
“So, we had a meeting with the Public Hospitals Authority on September 1 and we outlined some issues and concerns of the nurses and we also gave some recommendations and some ideas and we have assured the Public Hospitals Authority that we are willing to work together because we have to do this together.”
Earlier this month, Health Minister Renward Wells said more than 190 healthcare workers have been taken out of the system due to COVID-19 exposure.
Mr Wells also said the government is hoping to hire nurses from abroad to aid in the fight.
Yesterday, Ms Johnson said the association welcomes the move.
This comes amid numerous complaints from patients alleging mistreatment from staff at Princess Margaret Hospital.
Asked by The Tribune about the issue yesterday, Ms Johnson said she did not want to directly comment on the matter as investigations are still ongoing.
However, she lamented that there is always a concern when the healthcare provider and patient relationship is being strained.
She said, “We saw some of the articles in the paper because we don’t like to speak to things in the public domain, especially if it is being investigated, but it is always a concern when the public and the healthcare workers are not together and getting along.
“So, we need to look to do as an association to strengthen whatever needs to be in the healthcare system…but we encourage persons to speak out if they feel some injustice to the proper authority, the proper channels and I just want to encourage the nurses.
“We have a lot of nurses in this country doing an awesome job, great job and I spoke to some of the nurses in my area when they mentioned some of the things they read and I encouraged them to be that type of nurse who is giving good service and who is taking this profession seriously.”