Complaints of poor environmental conditions at yet another public facility reached the nation’s leading polyclinic on Friday morning, prompting unions and the Ministry of Health to examine the situation that came to light after a protest.
Nurses and other members of staff at the Winston Scott Polyclinic at Ladymeade, Jemmotts Lane, St Michael walked off the job around 9 a.m., to protest a slew of problems at the clinic that is intended to divert non-essential medical care away from the Accident and Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital across the street.
A walk-through and meeting followed in the afternoon, involving officials from the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Unity Workers Union (UWU), some nursing and other staff of the clinic, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Wayne Marshall and civil servants.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited, a handful of nurses could be seen outside the building while people were still making their way to the polyclinic.
“This is too much,” said one nurse. “You have water coming down the wall and mice droppings all over the place; not to mention the mosquitoes. The funny thing is that you got environmental health officers in here.”
Another said she had serious concerns regarding the state of the room which was being used to dress patients’ wounds, claiming that the conditions were unsanitary and posed a threat to the health of both patients and caregivers.
Following the tour and meeting, NUPW General Secretary Richard Green told Barbados TODAY that staff had not yet returned to work as some matters needed to be dealt with.
“There are some fixes that are required before staff can go back to work in those areas,” he said. “The [NUPW] and the ministry agree that some areas require immediate attention, and then an assessment will be conducted before workers can return to work at Winston Scott. There are still sections of the polyclinic that are operational. This does not mean a complete closure of the healthcare facility.”
The NUPW boss also disclosed that the poor conditions affected not only nurses but also environmental health officers who are assigned to the polyclinic and the general non-medical staff.
During the walk-through, staff were able to point out areas in the polyclinic that were the source of the environmental issues, Green said, such as mould in areas that leaked during recent heavy showers.
These concerns are in addition to other issues such as insufficient manpower and equipment. Green also identified storage as another issue, noting that items were inappropriately stored due to a lack of space, resulting in some rooms being “not fit for purpose”.
He said: “We outlined our position, which is to have the ministry take remedial actions immediately to alleviate some of the issues. Some need urgent action and we put forward recommendations to deal with this.
“We recognise, too, that some will call for a more long-term approach to dealing with them and we are working with the ministry to set up reasonable timelines for completion.”
The general secretary also revealed there was a recommendation for a committee made up of union officials, staff and health ministry officials to monitor the situation at the clinic.
On January 10, the polyclinic was closed due to environmental concerns. Staff were relocated to other polyclinics and the public was told to seek medical attention at another polyclinic.