BNU President Amancha Williams.
By PAVEL BAILEY
AMANCHA Williams, head of the Bahamas Nurses Union, says the shortage of qualified nurses is dismaying to hospital staff as the country faces another COVID spike.
With the number of cases now in hospital having risen to 118, Ms Williams said the overflow of cases is “strenuous” and “challenging” to nurses. She told The Tribune that one of the main challenges of nursing staff is available bed space as many of the wards are closed due to exposure to the coronavirus. All these excess patients then end up in the Accident and Emergency section which puts additional strain on the workload of those nurses, she said.
“I think the major issue is that when the patient comes in, we have difficulty having bed space because we still have a lot of wards that are closed,” she said yesterday. “And if a ward is exposed, then the ward shuts down from admission, so this has allowed an overflow.”
After nearly two years of combating the pandemic, many of these nurses are “burnt out,” she said, with each successive COVID-19 wave further taxing the healthcare system. This shortage in nurses also extends to the healthcare systems in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Exuma, The Tribune was told.
However, Ms Williams commended recent government efforts to recruit over 50 nurses from Cuba, who should be in the country soon. She noted that several nurses have just completed the Nursing Council’s exam to enter the field as registered nurses (RN) and trained clinical nurses (TCN) no later than February or March. She, however, raised fears that even when these new workers enter active service, senior nurses will still have to be reallocated to train them, and that as it stands now, public healthcare nurses are at their “max”.
She said: “Even when the (new) staff comes, who do you think is going to have to train them?”
To properly address the situation, she urged the government to redouble efforts to educate the public on COVID-19 prevention, calling on officials to be more proactive in reaching out to the various entities responsible for those matters.
Ms Williams stressed that the country cannot afford to shut down, thereby cutting off the critical circulation of funding necessary to fight COVID-19.
She said if the government truly wants the country to remain open, Davis administration officials have to ensure that policies set out by the Ministry of Health are carried out and policed by the COVID-19 team. She further recommended a crackdown on large crowds and social gatherings, calling on those who are enforcing these policies to eliminate these public health risks for the time being.
The government has said gatherings have to be limited to 20 people for indoor events and 30 people for outdoor events.
In addressing the public’s response to the ongoing pandemic and how people can make nurses’ jobs easier, Ms Williams urged people to join them in taking responsibility for their own health.
“We put patients first. That’s what we want to say to the public, but you have to then work with us,” she said.