Princess Margaret Hospital. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
SERVICES at public hospitals were severely affected yesterday by a sickout involving staff who have not received honorariums.
An even wider work stoppage could happen today, The Tribune understands, with staff from the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and the Emergency Medical Services teams in Grand Bahama among those who may call in sick. “It’s going to be a long weekend,” one healthcare professional said.
Another source estimated that 150 to 200 workers did not show up for work. It is understood workers will demand a meeting with top health officials.
No worker showed up yesterday at the morgue, which is currently operating way beyond maximum capacity.
“Nobody is there to receive the dead, to log them in properly or to receive them,” one source said.
Bahamas Public Service Union representatives declined to comment. However, the Public Hospitals Authority said in a statement that the sick out began affecting services at 8am yesterday. PHA said the public should expect delays accessing services at institutions and should seek services at a later time.
“PMH laboratory services, radiology and diagnostics have reported staff shortages resulting in delays in services. The morgue (Rand Lab) has suspended services until further notice,” PHA said.
“At the Rand Memorial Hospital (in Grand Bahama), laboratory services are reporting staff shortages, resulting in a delay in services. Phlebotomy services have been severely impacted and blood donation services have been suspended. GBHS Community Health Services staff shortages have impacted pharmacy services at Eight Mile Rock, Hawksbill, Freeport Community Clinic and Pearce Plaza. At this time pharmacy services is facilitating in-patient services, children, and emergencies only at the Freeport Community Clinic, IAT Building, East Atlantic Drive.”
The statement said Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre continues to provide services to patients uninterrupted.
The Ministry of Health announced last month that frontline staff workers who were promised honorariums for their services at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic would receive their money. Health Minister Renward Wells has said the pay ranges from about $1,000 to $5,000, adding that the government allocated $3m for the gift.
On Tuesday, Mr Wells said all honorariums have been paid.
“The honorariums were not for every healthcare worker. It was a gift from the government initially for those who worked directly on the frontlines in regards to COVID,” he said.
“Those decisions (on) individuals who were chosen for the honorarium was done by those who are the supervisors in the requisite sectors of the healthcare sector who would’ve put forward their members and said these are the heroes and ‘sheroes’ who worked on the frontlines in regard to COVID-19 and the government by then would’ve issued the requisite compensation to these individuals.
“The head of sections along with the committee inside health determine which each individual was entitled to. Remember now, the government initially said that there were those who were having a challenge with folks in the healthcare sector stepping forward to put their names on the frontlines to deal with COVID. So, this was an incentive to try and incentivise the healthcare sector to step forward,” Mr Wells said.
However, BPSU President Kimsley Ferguson has insisted the matter remains unresolved. He said this week that auxiliary nurses, housekeeping staff, patient care attendants and people from the radiology, EMS and lab departments are among those who have not been paid.
Some PHA staff are said to be confused by what constitutes “frontline workers” and who deserves honorariums amid unconfirmed internal reports that some people who work at the Ministry of Health’s headquarters on Meeting Street and secretaries were among those who have received honorariums.