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The President of The Bahamas Nurses Union Amancha Williams  last Friday said  that the Union and the Princess Margaret Hospital  are at an impasse in their negotiations with the government.

Back in October, the Union indicated that it was not satisfied with the shift system that was expected to be implemented on December 10th, 2018.

 The new shift system would have established a 40-hour work week and an 8 day daily shift, as opposed to the current 10 hour shift for Night Duty Nurses.  

After a few months of friction, the Union eventually received their strike certificate last December.  As for now, the Union President says they have other issues to tend to:

Speaking on the sidelines of the National Tripartite Council  General Assembly, Union President Ms.  Williams said, “ we are now in a state where we are trying to retain and recruit nurses. We have a shortage which is causing the Public Hospitals Authority, specifically the Princess Margaret Hospital, to run at a deficit.  We’ve had issues such as overtime not being paid, rather said, it has been said that overtime is not going to be paid, which causes an imbalance in the Healthcare System. Overtime is to be paid in a timely fashion.

“We  realise we want to keep our Bahamian Nurses in the Bahamas,  not have them go to Canada or the United States; so we have a challenge, because we have no money, but the question to our government is, if you want to recruit foreign workers, where are you going to find the money, if you cannot pay overtime to the Bahamian Nurses that are presently employed?”

An agreement still has not been reached by the Government and the Union and the BNU President said the government still wants to pay $1.75 for a shift change. 

 “We cannot agree to that. You have to be competitive and, when you come to the bargaining table, you cannot stay at $1.75, you must see that you have some interest in the worker, and to move to at least $3.00, they are not going to accept $1.75.”, she said.

Mr. Jullian Mullings, Secretary General of  Union said, “what the BNU has said from the very beginning is that there is a process that is involved and the BNU would like the government to follow the process that is out in the IRA and the Industrial Agreement, that is all we are asking, is to respect the documents that were agreed upon, if you cannot respect the process that we agreed upon, how can we trust you to apply the process in an unbiased manner?

“The Public Hospital Authority attitude right now, we have never seen it like this before, and the BNU has dismissed the presence of the Union in negotiating with the Union. We do not want to meet with persons who cannot make decisions, for the betterment of both parties. Apply the process in an unbiased manner.”, he added. 

“There is a shortage of nurses worldwide, also including the Bahamas. There is overcrowding in the Public Hospitals Authority, and the Princess Margaret, in particular.”,  Mr. Mullings said.

He also said that the hospital has a very large border population. 

“We do not have bed space to take care of the patients, who need to be in hospital.

“A strategy must be in place to reduce that bed shortage, to repair the bed units on a timely basis at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

“The Male Surgical Ward has been out of commission for 5 years, and that is space that can be utilized. The bed units need to be repaired in a timely manner,”he said.

The Union President said “improve the motivation factor, for the employees as well, in particular the Nurses.

“Accident and Emergency needs  to be adequately running, to have 15 nurses per shift.

“We have had Tuberculosis and  Measles; if there is an outbreak in the schools, if there are no nurses, then we have no tourists coming to the Bahamas.

“The BNU President implored, “put the Nurse first, then the patient will be first.

“In Accident and Emergency, the Nurse should be acting in her capacity, not performing other tasks…..she is taking care of Borders, Children’s Ward and Admissions, and this should not be,”  she said. 

This Union has been in a number of meetings and made suggestions on how to maintain and how to recruit, said the  President.

“ We have a Strike Certificate and when action is taken, we will move forward.

“We have to include the service of our hospital, it needs improvement.”

“Jamaica has lost fifty nurses out of one Health Care Centre, and  within a month. Everyone left the people are suffering, we do not want to see that in PMH,” she said.

The Union President asked the government to react, not slow, but quickly or the country will be in a dilemma and emphasized that the health is the wealth of the nation.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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