The staffing concerns at the Geriatric Hospital, which resulted in a sick-out by nurses yesterday and which threatened to cast yet another dark cloud over the two-week-old, 24-hour polyclinic service, have been addressed, Minister of Health, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has revealed.
This afternoon Bostic told reporters that he met with nurses late last night and this morning and managed to allay their fears as it relates to replacements for the 14 nurses taken from the Geriatric Hospital to staff the round-the clock service at the Winston Scott polyclinic.
Yesterday, Barbados TODAY reported that nurses at the Beckles Road institution were concerned that they were being disadvantaged by the removal of staff nurses, who were reportedly to be replaced by nursing assistants.
They contended that the polyclinic project, which has already suffered several setbacks due to staffing issues, had led to a case of shifting resources to one area at the expense of another. It was also pointed out that the issue raised questions of exploitation of junior staffers in the state-run health system.
However, during his press conference convened at Parliament this afternoon, the Health Minister made it clear that there were no plans to replace the nurses who transitioned to the 24-hour polyclinic, with nursing assistants. He did acknowledge that the nurses complained of staffing shortages for all three shifts at the facility.
“I did get a call yesterday and I had a joint meeting with the Minister of Elder Affairs [Cynthia Forde] and the nurses. I heard of some anxieties that were playing out at the Geriatric Hospital. I was told that there was a shortage of nurses for the shifts, the morning shift, the evening shift and the night shift,” Bostic explained.
“I just had a meeting with the staff at the hospital who have all reported for duty today and the issues were not so much with the exodus of nurses to the polyclinics because we planned for that in terms of arranging the shift system until we are able to source the nurses and that process is with the Ministry of the Public Service. We are not replacing nurses with trainees or nursing assistants.”
The Minister noted that Government was making every effort to fill the 14 positions as quickly as possible, hopefully from the local pool of nurses, before extending the search regionally.
“Unlike the recruitment of nurses for the 24-hour polyclinic, which had to be internal, with these positions we can look outside of the service. Currently the Ministry of the Civil Service is advertising the positions so that we can see who is available in Barbados with the necessary qualifications. I would be happy if we could fill those 14 positions without having to bring anyone from outside,” he revealed.
However, Bostic explained that even when the 14 positions are filled, there would still be nursing shortages at that facility and this shortfall was accounted for in Government’s recruitment drive from Ghana.
“Some of the nurses that we plan to recruit from Ghana are for all of the district hospitals, especially nurses who specialise in gerontology (scientific study of old age) because we want to be able to provide those hospitals with the required number of nurses to render a higher level of service,” he said while praising the nurses at the Geriatric Hospital for their service over the years and for returning to the job today.
“I want to compliment the nurses for coming back out to work this morning. They told me some of the issues that they have been having and we are going to work to resolve those issues. These nurses are committed to care for the elderly as they have always done. I honestly do appreciate the level of work that is done at the Geriatric Hospital and the district hospitals.”