Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has acknowledged that ongoing disturbances within the health care system by nurses have been having an impact on the delivery of services.
But while indicating that the process for addressing the nurses’ concerns has begun, Lt. Col. Bostic gave the assurance that the island’s health care system was still operating “reasonably” well despite the disruptions.
Over the past several days, nurses in the public sector have raised a number of grievances relating to hazard pay, work conditions, issues relating to long work hours, staff shortages and payment for the two recent public holidays observed on Monday, January 4 and Tuesday, January 5.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness met with representatives from the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) in an effort to reach a resolution.
The round of talks followed a brief work stoppage at some health care centres across the island. There were also indications early Tuesday that nurses could stay off the job if their concerns were not addressed.
Asked by Barbados TODAY for an update on the situation, Lt. Col. Bostic said the meeting was cordial, adding that his presence at the meeting was to hear the concerns of the nurses.
“And we agreed, the union and the ministry, that those grievances which were within the purview of the Ministry of Health and Wellness to deal with, we would have actioned those, and we have started that process,” he said.
“But there are others that had to be submitted to the Ministry of the Public Service and the Ministry of Finance, but the proposal from the unions has not yet been tabled or presented, and when they present the proposal we will send the proposal with our comments where the proposal has to go.”
Stating that he was not in a position to say much more, Lt. Col. Bostic said discussions were ongoing and officials were “proceeding with what we have to do”.
At the same time, he acknowledged that the delivery of some services including at swabbing sites have suffered as a result of the developments, but gave the assurance that things were still under control.
The minister said: “It has impacted on the delivery of services, but like I said, this is a battle, this is a war and there will be speed wobbles and bumps, we just work around the obstacles and we try to maintain composure to be able to deliver the level of health care service that we are required to deliver.
“We are still functioning in a reasonable way in spite of the issues in relation to the nurses. And when I say in a reasonable way, I am speaking about our swabbing sites and our ability to swab persons that we need to swab, and also to do the testing. And the contact tracing continues with all other resources that we have.”