Nurses at the Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic were off the job today, complaining that their current security arrangements are far from adequate, amid a recent spate of violent incidents at the Jemmotts Lane, St Michael medical facility.
The nurses are also insisting that they will remain off the job until Government post police officers at the polyclinic to protect workers. Most of the operations at the clinic came to a halt, with only the dispensary services being unaffected. However prenatal and other general services were suspended, as the healthcare workers met with their bargaining agents, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Unity Workers’ Union (UWU) and the Barbados Nurses’ Association (BNA).
Following the meeting, which began at 10 a.m. and wrapped up just after midday, head of the UWU Senator Caswell Franklyn told Barbados TODAY that the Ministry of Health has been brought up to speed on the nurses’ stance and the ball was now in their court.
“We the unions came to a common position that the nurses will not work at that polyclinic unless there is police presence. The nurses are in mortal fear for their lives and this is no exaggeration. They cannot work in these conditions anymore.
“We spoke to the Acting Permanent Secretary [in the Ministry of Health], who agreed to speak to the Minister of Health and get back to us. Our position is that they better hurry up because we have instructed the nurses not to go back to work unless there is a police presence,” said Franklyn, who made it clear that a single police officer will not do. Industrial Relations Officer of the NUPW, Christian Rock, confirmed Franklyn’s account of the meeting.
The outspoken trade unionist and Opposition Senator stressed, “When there is violence in a community, the police put an outpost there. So, the least they can do is to put a couple of officers at the polyclinic to protect the lives of the people working there. It is only fair that the nurses and staff there who serve the community so well, be made to feel safe.”
Today’s action came in the wake of three recent attacks on patients at the facility. On Tuesday evening, a person entered the clinic and attempted to attack a patient with a chair. Two weeks ago, a man wielding a knife assaulted another patient and earlier this month a female patient was struck in her head with a rock by a man.
Franklyn noted that the unarmed security guards stationed at the clinic were powerless to prevent the acts of violence.
“This is the third time for the month that persons ran through the clinic fighting. One man had a knife, another time a man had a chair. When they couldn’t get their way, they called in troops from outside. Yesterday’s incident started around 4:40 and came to a head around 6 p.m. The guard was trying his best to calm the situation but to no avail until he finally called the police. Even when the police came the people were threatening the police. One of the nurses had to pick up a four-year-old child and run. Other nurses had to run for cover,” Franklyn lamented.
Barbados TODAY made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Minister of Health Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic for comment.