PORT OF SPAIN –– Nurses at the Maternity Department of the Port of Spain General Hospital returned to work after yesterday morning’s walkout, but they intend to “work to rule” by “treating one patient at a time”.
They also intend to engage in a silent protest outside the Maternity Department for about four hours until their concerns are addressed.
Their grouses include abuse by teenage mothers, inadequate security and the knowledge that the security officers have been mandated to secure the compound and not their lives. They also said it would take more than a police post to allay their health and safety concerns.
A senior nurse, who wished to remain nameless for fear of victimization, said: “The nursing personnel met with the union representatives. In the interim they have decided to put in measures of security. They say they will give the security new orders. We are still not satisfied with the provision of a police post. It is not good enough for us right now. We are going to work to rule. We will be treating one patient at a time.”
She added: “Most times there are two midwives on the ward with an enrolled nursing assistant and another support staff. We will be working. We are going to have a silent protest outside the Maternity Department until our concerns are satisfied in a manner where we feel a measure of safety and comfort. We will take about four hours and walk around the building and serve the members of public one at a time.”
She related one incident which led to the yesterday’s protest. She said they were under more threat from teenage mothers who subject them to a barrage of expletives.
She said: “On Sunday, a member of staff was attacked. The patient had the baby. She was discharged. The baby had to do some blood works so ‘baby’ does not come down with illnesses. She wanted to go home. She said nobody could keep her baby in here. She was out on the floor. The patient decided to kick down the door and attack the nurse who told her they had to run tests on the baby. The two ENAs (enrolled nursing assistants) were on the ward and they decided to restrain her.
“The woman went outside, got a bottle and flung it at the nurse. The nurse ducked and it hit the doctor [paediatrician]. Security was called. Security then said they are there to protect the assets of the hospital including its equipment and buildings, not the staff at the hospital. The police were called in.”
To compound it, she said, “the patient told the nurse she was going to kill her. Anywhere they see her, they are going to stab her. After she left, she came back in a car with two men. The police were called in. She went to take out a restraining order. But she was told the restraining order can only be served in relationships. That is where we are now”.
The nurse added: “We are not satisfied with the supposed show of concern by [CEO Judith] Balliram. We have to work on shift. Nobody is here at night to protect us. A number of women security officers work here. They just put up their feet and sleep all night. When there is an occasion at NAPA the security allows people to park for a nominal fee. All kinds of nonsense is happening here. There is no accountability.”
Sharing her sentiments on teenage mothers, she said: “We are getting some teenage mothers. And you cannot tell them anything. And they threaten you and you still have to take care for these little girls. This is what we are going through on a daily basis. In every institution, there are bad eggs. I am not saying all the nurses are nice but it is sad. Despite everything, I love my job.”
A nurse related an incident that took place on February 19 involving a 17-year-old girl.
She said: “I came to work for the night shift. A 17-year-old patient came up and I went attend to her. When I questioned her, she said she was having pains. I told the nurse who has to look after her about her condition.
“When I came back, she started using foul language. I called her mother and I told the mother that horrible behaviour would not be tolerated. When I turned away, she grabbed me on the arm. Her mother was just standing there watching the whole incident.
“I reported her to the Belmont Police Station. I got seven days injury leave. Nothing has come out of it. I had a meeting with the CEO. Nothing has been done about my incident.
“We have it tough with the teenagers. We are doing our best to help them and to care for their babies. We need protection. They cannot come in and abuse workers. We need security. Security would say they are not coming
to the wards. They are here to protect the building.”