Nurses at the St Philip District Hospital are being assured that their concerns about poor working and environmental conditions have not fallen on deaf ears.
Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic this morning told Barbados TODAY he has been fully apprised of the nurses’ concerns and plans to treat the matter with the utmost priority, even if it means diverting funds from other areas of his Ministry.
“The district hospitals are in very bad condition, there is no doubt about it; and when I was informed on Friday about the situation at St Philip [District Hospital], I stopped whatever I was doing and I paid a visit to the facility and I did another visit with the Principal Nursing Officer and she outlined to me the areas of concern coming from staff. I cannot deny that there are issues there that need to be dealt with urgently,” said Bostic, who noted that the district hospitals across the island were in dire need of upgrade but that was an undertaking that was too great for the public coffers to bear alone.
“So, first of all, we have to do some security upgrades and there are some other issues that we are dealing with and we will have to divert some funds from elsewhere within the Ministry to be able to deal with them. All of the district hospitals have issues and we have been trying to solicit some assistance from the private sector because we do not have all of the finances,” the Minister stressed.
Barbados TODAY on Monday reported that mould in the building had resulted in some staff members suffering with respiratory illnesses, prompting them to call on Government to step in and take urgent action. Some workers complained that the situation has been ongoing for several years and has now come to a head, as they warned that the staff is ready to take “stern action” if a solution is not found soon.
A recent test showed the presence of a fungal pathogen, acremonium (Cephalosporin) species, verticillium, scopulariopsis, paecilomyces, aspergillus, and penicillin species.
Minister Bostic placed the blame for the poor state of the building on previous administrations, which he accused of failing to maintain the aging facilities, leaving his Ministry with a major headache in trying financial times.
“From the time I became Minister of Health I recognized that our primary care facilities, meaning the polyclinics and district hospitals, did not get the level of attention that they deserved – especially the district hospitals, because they are old facilities,” he contended. “In terms of maintenance, there were a lot of issues that we identified and we have started to work on as many as we could under the financial constraints that we have.”
Apart from the structural issues, nurses have complained of severe staff shortages, telling Barbados TODAY that their ability to properly care for patients was being severely hampered by lack of manpower and equipment. It was further revealed that, due to the workload, nurses have been consistently suffering muscular skeletal injuries; and that the nurse to patient ratio was significantly less than the standards set by the World Health Organization.
However, Bostic gave the assurance that this problem, which is symptomatic of the island’s chronic nursing shortage, should be addressed when Government completes its recruitment of nurses from Ghana.
“We acknowledge that we have a nursing shortage and we have to address that issue. The team is getting ready to go off to Ghana. Apart from that, there are some additional posts that we have to request through the Ministry of the Public Service. We must understand, however, that we are in an IMF programme, so there are going to be some constraints,” the Health Minister said. [email protected]