Nurses were off the job briefly at two central polyclinics and the Geriatric Hospital today, drawing Prime Minister Mia Mottley into an emergency meeting with their union and Minister of Health Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic.
The nurses at the Winston Scott Polyclinic on Jemmotts Lane and Brandford Taitt Polyclinic, Black Rock, followed their colleagues at the elderly care hospital in a show of solidarity with their protest over COVID-19 safety concerns.
But following the meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, the Government and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) agreed that a lack of communication was to blame for the work stoppage.
NUPW acting General Secretary Delcia Burke said the issues at the Geriatric Hospital surrounded the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitizing material. She said the workers also had an issue with an area identified to quarantine people suspected of having COVID-19.
But Burke said the Ministry satisfied the NUPW that the PPE and sanitizing material had been distributed and that the area identified for quarantining suspected cases “was not for the purpose the nurses thought it was”.
“So again that was a problem with communication and these things are going to be communicated to the members of staff at the Geriatric Hospital so that they understand what is going on at the hospital,” Burke said.
The parties also agreed that weekly meetings would be held between the nurses’ representatives and the Ministry of Public Service, but will include other ministries as issues arise.
Following the meeting, the Minister of Health said the dialogue was necessary to ensure that the national health care system was not affected.
He suggested the issues cropped up where authorities are grappling with a number of issues including COVID-19. He also noted that he had to leave the World Health Assembly’s virtual meeting to attend to the matter but praised the nurses for their contributions on the COVID frontline.
Lt Col Bostic declared that the issues had been resolved and said the Ministry of Health is to improve communication to the nurses.
He said: “I think once we do this and we meet regularly with the relevant stakeholders that we should be able to resolve all issues over the course of the next weeks or months. A lot of the things have been dealt with already but have not been communicated to the persons involved.”
Burke also said the meeting discussed the appointment of Environmental Health Officers and nurses at the polyclinic but the union said the appointments had already been effective since last Friday and that the officers are to be informed.
Burke added: “There was also a problem with temporary doctors who had some issues which were discussed today and which will be sorted out as soon as possible and then there were other issues relating to the Geriatric Hospitals that were worked on or have been worked on and therefore will be communicated to the nurses and the other staff at the Geriatric Hospital.”
But president of the Barbados Nurses Association Joanna Waterman said that the concerns addressed at the meeting were minor issues compared to what nurses are experiencing.
She said nurses have worked under deficient conditions for far too long, including sporadic salary payments with as long as six-month delays.
Waterman told Barbados TODAY: “Recent appointments were done some from 2017, and those nurses are still being paid as temporary workers so it has reached the frustration point.
“Everybody around the world has clapped for nurses, we appreciate the clapping and the praise but that is not enough. The nurses are demanding improved conditions right across all of the institutions.”
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