Government may have yet another problem on their hands to go with the myriad of issues already plaguing the health sector, as nurses at the St Philip District Hospital say that they have had it up to their necks with poor working and environmental conditions at that aging facility.
This morning workers told Barbados TODAY that mold in the building has a number of staff members dealing with respiratory illnesses `and they are therefore calling on Government to step in and take urgent action. Some staff members complained that the situation, which has been ongoing for several years, has now come to a boil and they warned that staff is ready to take “stern action” if a solution is not found soon.
“The nurses are ready for action. Right now, we have set up a chat and the majority of the nurses are in this chat. We have got persons from the Occupational Health and Safety Department to come in and we also requested a visit from Environmental Health Department because every minute persons are having respiratory problems,” said a source close to the development, who did not want to be identified.
The source also explained that the matter has been brought to the attention of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW). This morning the union confirmed that they are actively investigating the concerns of the nurses.
“In the building that we are working in, the roof persistently leaks. A technical team has been coming and they say that they have been fixing it but when the rain comes it leaks again. We have a lot of mold growing on walls and in the bathrooms, which means there is moisture,” the nurse said, adding that a recent test showed the presence of a fungal pathogen, acremonium (Cephalosporin) species, verticillium, scopulariopsis, paecilomyces, aspergillus, penicillin species.
The source added, “The building has been crumbling over time. Parts of the second level are falling in all of the time. We had lots of termites and when the pest control company came in, they could not drill for fear that they would further compromise the structural integrity of the building. They are constantly patching and patching. We have parts of the floors raising up and as we push the trollies you have liquid spilling.”
Apart from the structural issues, nurses are complaining of being severely short-staffed, telling Barbados TODAY that their ability to properly care for patients is being severely hampered by the lack of manpower and the lack of equipment. It was further revealed that due to the workload, nurses have been consistently suffering muscular skeletal injuries.
“We have a staffing issue and this is a concern because before we used to have a lot of ambulant [patients able to move around] but now we have a lot of dementia patients and there is no one to help lift these patients. No one seems able to source hoist lifts and all of the nurses are complaining of muscular skeletal injuries. The nurses are always in pain and most of them have identical issues. We all live at different places, so if the identical injuries are manifesting across the board then it must be work-related,” another staff member said, noting that most persons were complaining of pain along the sternum and in the left shoulder.
The source added, “We now have 16 patients on smaller wards and 28 on the bigger one and most of the time there are two nurses on a shift on the smaller wards but now because of shortages, there is one nurse on those smaller wards on a given shift.”
When Barbados TODAY visited the health facility, members of the hospital administration declined to comment and asked that all queries be directed to the Ministry of Health. Several attempts were also made to contact Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic but those were unsuccessful.