Despite Government’s insistence that 24-hour polyclinics will open in a matter of weeks, it is unclear if the middle ground could be reached over the issue of the nurses’ refusal to work the shift system.
A meeting is set for Friday between the Ministry of the Civil Service and the nurses who will staff the clinics in another effort to break the deadlock.
Nurses from the two polyclinics earmarked as the pilots of the programme, the Winston Scott and David Thompson Health and Social Services Complex, met this afternoon with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to strategise for the meeting. The Ministry of Health is also expected to outline Cabinet’s decision on the matter.
Earlier this week, Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic told Barbados TODAY that last Thursday, ministers greenlighted the round-the-clock care plan and that it was just a matter of informing the unions of what is to come.
Lieutenant Colonel Bostic said: “As a result of a decision taken at Cabinet on Thursday, I can tell you that we will commence the service within the coming weeks.
“I don’t want to go into the specifics at this stage because I want to first share that information with the unions and with the staff before going public.
“We had called a meeting with the unions on Saturday, but they were unavailable, so we have scheduled a second meeting to articulate what we are going to be doing going forward.”
But following today’s two-hour meeting, which began at 3 p.m. at the Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic, NUPW acting General Secretary Delcia Burke, insisted that the matter was not going to be solved by ministerial directive.
She told Barbados TODAY that although Government has not yet indicated what the new position is, union members were prepared to respond to most eventualities.
“The nurses communicated their position to us and we would prefer to say it to the meeting first on Friday.
“The Minister of Health did say that the 24-hour polyclinics will commence but he did not say when. It might move along but not with the nurses because there certainly aren’t enough nurses for the project.
“It really now depends on what Government’s position is because the nurses have opted not to work the 24-hour clinics and nobody can’t make them change that if they don’t want to. So we will really have to see now what they are telling us.”
The trade unionist also told Barbados TODAY that members had no problems with Goverment’s plan to bring nurses from Ghana, suggesting that the recruits could man the round-the clock facility, providing they met certain conditions.
The NUPW acting general secretary said: “I believe that the nurses from Ghana will sort out this issue with the polyclinics but first we have to be sure that they can speak in a way that the average Barbadian can understand.
“We have to also be sure that they are properly trained, and they would have to do the regional exams that our nurses are required to do. As long as they can meet those three criteria then we have no problem at all.”
Earlier this week, the Health Minister said that he has looked into all of the nurses’ concerns and he is satisfied that the majority of them have been resolved.
“Contrary to what has been said in the press by some people, the 24-hour polyclinics is not a proposal, it is documented Government policy.
“For the last several months, the unions and staff have raised several issues and one by one we have solved those issues.
“From transportation to security as well as appointment of nurses, we have dealt with all of those issues,” Bostic said.
He declared that he was taken aback by the nurses’ security concerns, as this was a matter which, he said, he used his military expertise to address.
“We have certainly done everything possible and that ranges from electronic security to human resources as well as protocols and procedures with the Royal Barbados Police Force. So, I am satisfied that we have done everything that was asked of us and we are ready to commence the service.”
The Minister insisted that the start of the round-the-clock clinics was vital to Government’s plans to improve the health service and therefore nothing was going to derail it.
“This is a service that is vitally important not only because it eases the situation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Accident and Emergency [Department], but more importantly it gives this country greater capacity in terms of responding to national emergencies, so that we don’t have everything centralised within Bridgetown.”