Categorized | National News

Health Minister Denies Impasse With Nurses

The Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) released a statement yesterday disputing the suggestion by  Bahamas Nurses’ Union President, Amancha Williams, who claimed last week that negotiations between the Nurses’ Union and the government had reached an impasse. 

The PHA in turn standing firm in its position, adding that it is open to re-engage the union in discussing a standardized shift system for nurses in an effort to arrive at a compromise regarding the amount of compensation proposed via a shift premium. 

In December 2018, the PHA announced that it would “defer” its original date for implementing the new shift system. 

While no new date has been given, the managing  authority  of the hospital said further discussions can take place. 

The Authority also said that regarding compensation proposed for the shift premium, there are limited financial resources to support the initiative. The original proposal saw the authority offer nurses scheduled to work 6pm to 6am an amount of $1.75 per hour in addition to their regular pay. 

Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands told the media yesterday, that the BNU and the government are not at an impasse, stating that he also spoke with BNU’s president last week.

“I don’t believe that there is any reason to do anything other than attempt to have amicable discussions with any of the stakeholders in health. So, I met with the President of the Nurses Union  last week in my office. It was very candid, [and] very open about the issues,” Dr. Sands said.

He   revealed that some $750,000 has been accrued in overtime pay for the nurses, admitting that there were some delays in making payments. 

“We find ourselves with almost three quarters of a million dollars worth of overtime just in one month, which is a phenomenal burden for the healthcare system. 

“There was some delay in having those payments made to staff, but that will be rectified, and they will all be paid in very short order.

In the statement PHA further maintain that successful implementation of the new shift system will establish a standardized eight hour daily shift which will greatly improve the ability to roster nurses, improve the delivery of healthcare, ensure better patient outcomes, reduce the number of accidents and errors and eliminate inequities of the current night shift system. 

Dr. Sands added that the ministry is trying to balance the issue of inadequate number of fulltime staff with the most important need.

“That is the need for Bahamians to get the care that they want and deserve. 

“And so, where we are unable to provide that coverage with nurses locally, then we have an obligation to ensure that our Critical Care Units, in particular are staffed. 

“So, yes, it is true that across The Bahamas most of our critical care services are covered by non-Bahamians, that is true in the private sector, it’s true in the public sector and it speaks to a need to recommit for recruitment and retention and that process is ongoing. 

“So, certainly we’ve been engaged, and I don’t believe this is an ideal time to make the public suffer, over a matter we have the absolute commitment to resolve,” Dr. Sands said. 

The PHA in its press release added that “while the standardization of shifts for nurses across PHA remains a matter for future discussions with the BNU, there are many matters the two share common ground on including  the need to promote the profession; a commitment to increase the number of highly-trained local nurses; the expansion of opportunities for professional development and training for nurses; the need to ensure fair and equitable compensation; and the ongoing improvement and maintenance of the environment in which they practice”. 

The PHA  stated that they “remain committed to improving the delivery of healthcare within The Bahamas through ongoing education, training and the development of staff and physical environs”.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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