The country’s premier healthcare institution is hiring close to a dozen more professionals as it embarks on a 24-hour service in its critical diagnostic department.
At the same time the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) anticipates saving more than half a million dollars in overtime annually as a result of the move.
Chief Executive Officer of Dr Dexter James told Barbados TODAY Monday afternoon that when the eight staff already hired were added to the proposed ten, this would ease an overworked department and significantly slash or wipe out a financially burdensome overtime bill.
“In so doing we would actually save close to $500,000 a year for the lab. It’s a win-win for everybody . . . work-life balance would be in force for staff, the hospital now runs on a truly 24- hour arrangement, you would have created employment without necessarily increasing our payroll cost, in fact we have a savings, and it provides opportunities for sustainability,” he said. Dr James suggested that with the existing staff having to work after hours, as well as on weekends and public holidays, in addition to their normal duties, they were likely to suffer from burnout.
“The Queen Elizabeth Hospital brought on eight persons to fill the establishment of the lab, under an arrangement that says they can be rostered eight hours within a 40-hour period. The existing officers who transitioned with the board, their terms and conditions speak to a 40-hour week, to cover after-hours, weekends and public holidays. They have been working overtime . . . and those persons are on a different arrangement that speaks to putting them on a shift system,” said Dr James against a background of reports that lab staff were uneasy about the 24-hour arrangement.
“We have never said that bringing eight persons on would eliminate overtime, but what it would do . . . we should see a reduction in the level of overtime. In the meanwhile, our board has since submitted a paper to the Ministry of the Civil Service, through the Ministry of Health, to create additional posts in a way where we would then eliminate overtime, but the eight of them cannot eliminate the full overtime. The idea of this is to move the hospital to a truly 24-hour operation,” the hospital’s boss added.
He noted that areas such as the lab, the pharmacy, the X-ray department and even some support services required staff to work between 8.15 a.m. and 4.30 p.m., arrangements under which no 21st Century hospital could efficiently operate, he said.
“Management need the flexibility to roster staff in accordance with the demands of services. Whenever there are peak demands, we should be able to be flexible enough to roster staff to cover the demand. Of course, we respect the fact that employees shouldn’t work more than 40 hours. That doesn’t exist right now,” he said.
The chief executive insisted that some of the money now spent on overtime could be used to create additional posts, thus providing more extensive cover to the public on a 24-hour shift system.
He explained that the hospital could not now change the terms and conditions of staff who have already transitioned from a statutory body to the current board, unless the workers’ representatives agreed to
“What we can do is, those persons who have been hired under the board, we can now cover the shifts after 4.30, weekends and public holidays in a way that allows for 24-hour coverage.”
Dr James said the hospital management met with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) last Friday and it was agreed that the new arrangement would be reviewed next month.
When contacted, Deputy General Secretary of the NUPW Wayne Walrond said the union wanted to have a proposal within the next month as to how the
new system would work with the
“Within 30 days we would want to sit down with the management and workers and have a look at a proposal that came from workers about how best we can go forward with this 24-hour system. That
is as much as I can say right now,”