Categorized | National News

Hospital Staff Sickout – Workers To Be Reprimanded; PHA Responds

The Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama was hit with a sickout over the weekend that medical officials admit had the potential to cripple operations at the healthcare facility.

The sickout, which began Friday, was organised by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff, who say they are frustrated by “critical operational inefficiencies.”

A significant number of EMS staff failed to show up for the 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. shifts.

As a result of the industrial action, the PHA was forced to activate its emergency response plan, which involved the redeployment of medical staff from other areas of Grand Bahama Health Services (GBHS) and Emergency Medical Services in New Providence. Royal Bahamas Defence Force and Police Force officers were also called in to assist.

The employees, who have asked to remain anonymous, said it is “regrettable” that they have to deal with matters this way, but said they are fed-up with the Public Hospital Authority’s (PHA) attitude of indifference.

The workers said the PHA tends to deal with operational inefficiencies reactively rather than proactively.

The PHA moved quickly over the weekend to assure the residents and visitors to Grand Bahama that the “illegal” industrial action by the staff of the Emergency Medical Services has, in no way, compromised the quality, standard and delivery of the facility’s services.

Several of the individuals who staged the sickout are slated to be reprimanded, The Journal understands.

In the letter, addressed to Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez and copied to GBHS Acting Hospital Administrator Sandra Mortimer Russell, the EMS staff said it is “regrettable that we must seek your assistance in this way to have matters addressed.”

“This management style continues to cause the staff to become very distressed and agitated,” the staff said.

The EMS workers have asked that several concerns be immediately addressed.

Firstly, they want several 52-week programme personnel, who were working on the national dispatching system, to be kept on.

In 2005, the PHA invested more than half a million dollars on a national dispatching system that ties in with the police and the nationally operating dispatch centre.

“We understand that these persons, to the detriment of effective community response, will be released from the programme even after the considerable amount of resources and specialised training received from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Public Hospital Authority over the course of one year. Common sense must prevail in continuing the service of these very essential personnel in this specialised area of national emergency response,” the workers said in a joint statement.

Secondly, the staff said frequently, and to their jeopardy, they are refused for one reason or the other very necessary safety equipment, which include: cholera packets (gloves, gowns, shoe covers, biohazard bags); road lighting flares to be used during night time operation on highways; foot protection/safety boots; hand sanitizers and infection prevention masks.

The workers also want additional emergency response teams so that they can provide coverage for the increased numbers of medical and traumatic responses.

“Unfortunately, in Grand Bahama we are concerned that citizens would hate to be the second or third person calling for an ambulance because they typically have to wait, on many occasions for long periods. As advocates for the community and as potential users of the service, we believe it is unacceptable that in Grand Bahama the best opportunity of getting care in many instances is to drive to the hospital yourself in hopes that your ailment will allow you to deliver you safely,” the staff said.

“Hon. Obie Wilchcombe MP is very aware; he too, has complained on several occasions. Grand Bahama, unlike New Providence or Abaco, has a singular service to respond to emergencies, yet sensible contingencies like emergency on-call personnel are not being utilised to assist the service.”

As a result, workers claim delays in responding to emergencies continue to occur because there are no ambulance teams readily available to respond to the many calls.

They said they cannot effectively respond to emergencies with two vehicles on an island like Grand Bahama that easily has areas to access in excess of 45 minutes to an hour.

In its response, the PHA sought to clarify several issues.

“With regard to the number of emergency units and/or vehicles in the emergency fleet, the community of Grand Bahama might recall that earlier this year the Public Hospitals Authority announced that it would purchase five new ambulances – one of which was designated for Grand Bahama, and that additional vehicles would be purchased later this fiscal period,” a statement said.

“The PHA can now confirm that the five new state-of-the-art vehicles promised will arrive in The Bahamas during the first week of November. The Authority can also confirm that the minister with responsibility for the National Insurance Board (NIB) has advised that the National
Insurance Board through its Medical Benefits Branch will purchase a total of 21 new state-of-the-art ambulances for health care facilities throughout The Bahamas, including Grand Bahama.”

The PHA said eight of the vehicles are earmarked for Grand Bahama, 11 for New Providence and two for Abaco.

With respect to the eight vehicles earmarked for Grand Bahama, one of the vehicles will be stationed at the Eight Mile Rock Clinic to provide emergency medical services to West Grand Bahama residents.

“Concerns about lack of training also surfaced, as an issue for those staging what can now be determined illegal industrial action. The Public Hospitals Authority each year approves no less than five core training modules and continuous training is done year round through workshops, and other local and international exercises,” the PHA said.

“In-fact, only [Friday] the EMS team here in Grand Bahama completed the Emergency Medical
Services Instructor Course & Pharmacology/Advanced Cardiac Life Support Training course, which was conducted by Dr. Todd Soard.

Dr. Soard, who has been a paramedic for 30 years, is the founder and director of the Emergency Educational Institute in Coral Springs, Florida.

Thirteen staff members of the Emergency Medical Services team, inclusive of personnel from New Providence, Abaco and Grand Bahama successfully completed the course and are now trained as Florida Association of EMS Instructors.

They are now equipped to train other personnel in their respective EMS departments.

Five paramedics from New Providence and four in Grand Bahama also successfully completed review courses in pharmacology and advanced cardiac life support.

The EMS workers have since reported back to work.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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