Despite finally getting off the ground at the beginning of this month, it appears that Government’s woes surrounding the controversial 24-hour polyclinic service are far from over.
Today, nurses from the Geriatric Hospital, the health facility from which the majority of nurses were taken to staff the pilot of the urgent care component at the Winston Scott polyclinic, staged a sick-out.
According to a source close to the development, nurses at the Beckles Road institution are concerned that they are now being disadvantaged by the removal of staff nurses, who are reportedly to be replaced by nursing assistants.
“We have not confirmed if this is true, but we understand that the staff nurses who have left the Geriatric Hospital to work in the 24-hour polyclinic, will be replaced by nursing assistants. The duties that staff nurses carry out are senior to what nursing assistants can do,” the source said.
They contended that the polyclinic project, which has already suffered several setbacks due to staffing issues, had evolved into a case of shifting resources to one area at the expense of another.
It was also pointed out that the issue also raises questions of exploitation of junior staffers within the state-run health system.
“Are the assistants who are coming, expected to fulfil staff nurse duties? Are you going to recruit nursing assistants, who are paid at the lower grade, to carry out the duties of a staff nurse? If that is so, then that is exploitation. Nurses are so stressed by these developments that some of them could not attend work today.” the source added.
It was also revealed that the nurses of the state-owned elderly care facility felt as if their contribution to the health service was not fully appreciated, following remarks by a panellist, who was speaking during a live programme carried on the state-owned television station. The source did not reveal the date and name of the programme, nor did they reveal the organisation that the panellist represents.
“That person’s statements seemed to diminish what nurses do. It maligned and downplayed the duties that these hard-working nurses actually perform and many felt insulted by the comments. The very description of their duties was offensive. These are professionals, yet you have this person, who should know better, saying that all these nurses do is turn beds and turn patients. Highly disrespectful,” the source stressed.
Barbados TODAY visited the Geriatric Hospital but could not ascertain the impact of the sickout. Staff members would only confirm that a number of nurses were off the job.
Several attempts were made to reach Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic for comment but these were unsuccessful. However, when contacted, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne Waldron would only state that the “matter was being investigated” by the union.
Last month, Bostic revealed that Cabinet had taken the decision to consolidate the human resources originally earmarked to be shared between the Winston Scott Polyclinic and the David Thompson Health and Wellness Complex, into the facility at Bay Street. Fourteen nurses, comprising mainly of volunteers from the Geriatric Hospital made the transition to the round-the-clock system at the polyclinic.
At the time, Bostic was convinced that the new arrangement should satisfy all concerned parties, as only the specially-contracted staff would work the “graveyard” shifts.