Nurses attached to the Department of Health are claiming that the delay in their confirmation as permanent pensionable employees is blatant victimisation, The Bahama Journal has been informed.
The nurses claim that their livelihoods and careers are in limbo.
At least 40 nurses, many of whom have been employed with the department for several years, said neither their statuses nor salaries have been adjusted despite repeated promises from both their superiors and the prime minister that they would be.
The nurses said they have had two meetings with the prime minister in recent months where they were promised that their issues would be addressed in a timely manner.
Further, the nurses have alleged that they are now being threatened since going public with their stories.
“If this isn’t victimisation, I don’t know what is,” said one of the nurses who spoke with the Journal on the basis of anonymity.
“A process cannot take five years. Both the Departments of Public Services and Public Health are in the same building so they can walk right across the hall and fix this. My transcripts for five years cannot continuously accidentally be dropping out of the file. This is just wrong.”
Without confirmation, the nurses said they are deprived of increments, insurance and a clear career path.
They also said their lack of insurance coverage has wide ranging implications.
“If something happens to a patient under our watch, they may not be covered because it can be said that we are not hired and therefore we should not have been treating or tending to that patient,” the nurses said. “Or if something happens to us, what happens to our children – they will not be taken care of because we are not covered.
The nurses are demanding that their matters be immediately addressed.
“We are stuck here at the same level under the same pay that we started with years ago, while new nurses who just graduated and started have already been confirmed and seen their salaries adjusted,” said another nurse. “How can that happen?
“We are just being given the runaround. They keep telling us to be patient but we have been as patient as we possibly can. We have lives and responsibilities that we are unable to meet because we are not making the money we should be making.”
The nurses also expressed disappointment in The Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) and its president Jana Khalfani claiming that Ms. Khalfani advised them to get started with the complaining process and the union “would join in on the tail end.”
Another nurse said, that she was advised by the union that this situation “was not its fight.”
The Journal made repeated calls to Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health Hyacinth Pratt and Acting Principal Nursing Officer Sandra Coleby but those calls went unanswered up to press time.
However, Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez addressed the issue of those in the public service working for years without confirmation during debate in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“Sometimes the bureaucratic nature of the public service could cause frustration to those who are affected,” he said. “The regularisation of their employment has long been coming but it is now resolved.
“Letters have been received by some of the affected and staff members at both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Service are working overtime to ensure payment as early as next week.”