By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than a dozen trained nurses in Abaco engaged in a “sick out” yesterday due to “poor” working conditions and safety concerns at the Marsh Harbour Clinic.
In a letter written to health officials, obtained by The Tribune, the nurses voiced several grievances ranging from a lack of safety protocols to unsanitary conditions at the local healthcare facility and called for immediate action to address the long-standing issues.
“It’s been over a year since Hurricane Dorian has hit Marsh Harbour and we are still awaiting security protection,” the nurses wrote. “There have been many instances where persons have gained access to the clinic because the doors were not secure. A locksmith advised for the door to be changed and that has yet to happen.
“The lives of nurses and medical staff are placed in jeopardy every day due to the lack of security on the premises. When patients become irate, we have to play the role of security which is (not) safe…Inadequate lighting around the clinic and in the parking lot also poses a great risk to the staff.”
This comes as the island continues to see increased theft and other crimes, with some residents considering the issue a new reality for the storm-impacted community. The nurses said the situation has left them in fear of their lives.
And, according to the healthcare workers, the police officers on the island are not a big help for the problem.
The nurses said there have been instances where officers have taken “from 30 to 45 minutes” to respond to their calls for help despite being located nearby.
Pointing to a recent incident that resulted in officers being called, the staff said: “On December 4, 2020, an irate gentleman tried to enter the clinic with a crowbar and the nursing staff felt helpless, unsafe and feared for their lives. The Royal Bahamas Police Force was called three times and even though we received a response that night, the response was not timely. The individual was not able to access the clinic, however, what if he had? Would we be mourning our fellow colleagues today?”
The medical workers also cited cleanliness concerns at the health facility, claiming the building is not being properly sanitised and cleaned due to negligence.
“We have observed their staff going missing for an entire shift or only present at the beginning of the shift to change the garbage bins,” the nurses wrote. “There are also issues with the toilet not flushing and the water running. We are still running daily clinics in these conditions, which are very unsanitary.”
When contacted for comment yesterday, Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams said the union was made aware of the nurses’ concerns nearly a month ago and has since contacted the relevant authorities about it.
“Me and the minister discussed (these concerns) before the Christmas season. We discussed it with (the lady) who’s in charge of administration at the clinic. The minister informed me that he was going to deal with that,” she told this newspaper.
“Our members have the right because it’s a health and safety hazard. What you have is the sewage coming up. They know that there is an issue, that there is a sewer problem.”
Ms Williams said there needed to be a better appreciation for healthcare workers and adding the government has an obligation to ensure safety and cleanliness in the workplace.
“At the end of the day, these nurses have sacrificed a lot,” she said. “They leave Nassau to come to a place that’s under-developed and they were at one point living in the clinic, showering. They had nowhere else to go just to care for the people during COVID while other things were surfacing.
“… So that’s what’s happening in Abaco and we’ve addressed this issue and I’ve been up there and sat in the minister’s office. They’ve known about this for months.”
Attempts to reach Health Minister Renward Wells were unsuccessful up to press time.