With a proposal by Government to introduce a 24-hour health service at polyclinics adding to a series of grievances to be resolved, two unions appear to be jostling for the undivided attention of the Ministry of Health as the official bargaining agent for the nation’s nurses.
A decision by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to call a meeting with nurses earlier this week to discuss a range of issues including the 24-hour system, is not sitting well with the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) president Joannah Waterman, who is contending that her organization is the true representative body.
“Barbados Nurses Association is the representative body for nurses since 1992. Not only are we the professional body, but we are the union for the majority bulk of nurses in Barbados,” Waterman said.
As a result, the BNA met with Minister of Health Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic two weeks ago to speak for those nurses who would be affected by the extended hours, particularly at Randall Phillips Polyclinic and Winston Scott Polyclinic.
Waterman told Barbados TODAY that the meeting, at which all other representative groups in the healthcare service attended, she first canvassed their views before she made the case for the nurses to the minister.
“Having canvassed their views, we then went there and we represented specifically with respect to the inadequate compliment of staff, with respect to the very heavy overburdened workload in the current climate, with respect to the atrocious physical plant [at] Randall Phillips in particular, and we represented all of that,” the BNA head said.
Waterman said she brought attention to nurses’ fears that their terms and conditions of employment were being changed with the proposed extended hours of work “and they would really like the Minister to come on the ground to speak with them, as to really what the full proposal is and how will it be staffed”.
Her members are now waiting on the minister to meet with them as employer to employee, Waterman told Barbados TODAY.
Bostic promised to review the proposal, having conceded that additional staff would be needed at the polyclinics if the hours were being extended, she said.
The BNA head also stressed that while the nurses supported any attempt to improve the service, while not bringing suffering to the nurses who would deliver the extra service.
In a separate development, the NUPW, which represents the nation’s public workers said it had no intention of lying down and playing dead when the nurses were experiencing many serious issues that required resolution, General Secretary of the NUPW Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY.
The NUPW, Smith insisted, had been representing nurses from as far back as 1974 at the Geriatric Hospital and 1983 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
She also claimed that her union represented the majority of nurses and that most of the benefits they now enjoy were the result of the NUPW’s representation over the years.
“I don’t have nothing to apologize to the nurses association for,” said Smith. “We will continue to represent the nurses and I know we have the majority of nurses, so I don’t have any case to fight with the BNA.
“So if I am forward thinking in making strides to ensure that we have this matter looked at and dealt with, why would they be upset?” Smith asked, adding that she would not be laying down her representation to “leave it out there to the wind.”
The NUPW leader also acknowledged the grievances of the nurses that included appointments, being overburdened with work and shortages of nurses at polyclinics.
“You can’t expect a buy-in when you have all of these matters outstanding. They are burnt out and the frustrations of not being appointed,” Smith said adding that these issues must first be addressed before a 24-hour system is introduced.
She also told Barbados TODAY that when they met with the Minister he conceded that the October 1 proposed date for the new system to start was no longer practical and agreed to go back to the drawing board and even take on some of the suggestions put on the table. [email protected]