THE CONDITIONS health workers are dealing with in Abaco, including a tent covered in mould where suspected patients are to be treated and unsanitary surroundings.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Abaco has overwhelmed healthcare workers who are already strained by “poor” working conditions coupled with ongoing staff shortages.
In a statement sent to The Tribune yesterday, Abaco nurses said the current health crisis has stretched workers beyond measure and has also placed strain on an already burdened healthcare facility that has not recovered since Hurricane Dorian.
One healthcare worker said because of the limited resources there, nurses are forced to treat suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in “mouldy” tents and unsanitary conditions.
The nurses also said there are no bathroom facilities at the healthcare site for positive patients and staff, the latter of which are forced to work in heated conditions in full protective gear.
“There is no facility in Abaco to manage suspected (people) or patients that we know have COVID so if any patient presents to the clinic with COVID symptoms or has been diagnosed by a PCR or rapid antigen test, if they come to Marsh Harbour Clinic, the only place we have to put them is either on the porch or outside on the back of the clinic where the ambulance entrance is or a tent structure that they have for the patients,” one worker said.
“The tent itself is covered in mould and mildew and there are no restroom facilities for basic hygiene or excretory needs.
“You can’t bring them in the clinic because the clinics have no negative air pressure, so you’ll be putting other staff members at risk by bringing suspected cases or other positive patients in the clinic.
“We are completely overwhelmed as a nursing and medical body here in Abaco.”
This comes as healthcare workers across the country continue to struggle with exhaustion from the increasing number of COVID cases.
However, nurses on Abaco said while they’re willing to work, they’re tired of being mistreated and disrespected.
They have previously voiced their concerns about the lack of safety protocols, security and unsanitary conditions at the Marsh Harbour Clinic.
Despite their repeated calls for help, the group said their cries continue to fall on deaf ears.
“Since Hurricane Dorian passed, the upkeep of the clinic has been overlooked. For several months, we have been working under poor, inhumane and mundane conditions,” nurses continued.
“(We have) been working in no air conditioning units since March 2021 while mini splits have been installed in the administrator’s office and dental room and the rest of the staff and patients are made to suffer in the heat, (we have) extremely poor ventilation within the clinic as a result of no air conditioning and there is presence of mold within clinic as a result of no air conditioning and inadequate daily sanitization and cleaning for a clinic that is open 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.”
The group is also upset about not receiving honorariums like many of their colleagues and stood in solidarity with many other public health nurses who called in sick yesterday.
The Tribune understands services at Marsh Harbour Clinic were affected by the sickout among staff there and could only deal with emergency cases.
This comes as the island is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 infections, with the island’s tally now at 507 after nine new cases were reported on August 15.
There have been increasing concerns about a reported COVID-19 outbreak in the community, specifically on the Abaco cays.
Yesterday, healthcare professionals told The Tribune they believe the actual number of COVID-19 infections are much higher than the reported number, saying many locals have been testing positive by way of the rapid antigen and not following up with PCR tests.
RT-PCR tests are currently used as the gold standard to determine COVID-19 infection in The Bahamas and are the only test results included on the nation’s COVID dashboard.
Yesterday, nurses called for government officials to send more supplies to help manage the influx of positive patients on the island.
“Here, the nurses play the role of the pharmacist as well,” the group said. “And although we’ve sent numerous requests to Nassau for medications, we do not even have IV antibiotics or corticosteroids to supply COVID clients who are unable to be transported to Nassau for tertiary level care. We are so strained here it’s hard to even have IV fluids.
“We do understand that the entire healthcare system is overwhelmed, but the attention has to be given to the healthcare system in the northern Bahamas because we have not bounced back at all since Hurricane Dorian.”
Attempts to reach healthcare officials for comment were unsuccessful.