Government’s plans for round-the-clock primary health care at polyclinics has been rejected by an Opposition senator whose trade union represents nurses.
General Secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), Senator Caswell Franklyn, called on Ministry of Health and Wellness to abandon the plan, arguing it had not thoroughly examined security considerations for the health care providers.
After three violent incidents this month at one of two clinics in a trial programme, nurses at the Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic walked off the job today.
The nurses complained that the polyclinic, which recently had its closing time extended from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., was now beset by violence.
Franklyn argued: “If you can’t adequately secure a facility that opens until 10 p.m., I don’t see how they could assure workers that they would be safe when they switch to 24-hour. These workers are in conditions now where it is even violent during the day.
“So, what is going to happen when it is in the wee hours of the morning and everybody in their bed but the nurses and criminals who want to kill each other?”
In an attempt to fulfil one of its core campaign promises, the labour party government announced that 24-hour health care service would be introduced at two of the island’s polyclinics on June 1. Government was later forced to suspend this start date, citing logistical reasons.
According to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the initiative is aimed at cutting down wait times at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department by offering them round-the-clock care at alternative venues.
Services offered will include urgent care, which treats illnesses and injuries that require immediate care but are not life-threatening, as well as routine care, which may include follow-up care for chronic conditions and health checks.
But as the nurses protested, Senator Franklyn told Barbados TODAY that when Government is eventually ready to start this initiative, they must first convince him that his members will be safe.
He said: “Before I can sign off on this with my nurses, [Government] has to show how they are going to keep them safe. Trust me on that. As it stands at the moment, at the Winston Scott polyclinic, workers are fearing for their lives because of violence. So, I will be crazy to let them sink themselves further in a dangerous situation.”
At the Winston Scott polyclinic there have been three recent attacks on patients this month alone. On Tuesday evening, an assailant entered the clinic and attempted to beat a patient with a chair. Two weeks ago, a knife-wielding man accosted another patient. And earlier this month, a man struck a female patient in the head with a rock.
The unarmed Government security guards stationed at the clinic were said powerless to prevent the acts of violence.