President of the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) Amancha Willimas told reporters during an impromptu press conference Monday morning, that the union has filed a dispute and taken a strike vote against the Ministry of Health, as the union claims the minister has not kept his word.
Last week, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands told reporters he had a sincere meeting with representatives of the nurses’ union to address their concerns, following a sick out of over 200 nurses.
Secretary General Julian Mullings however, told reporters yesterday, the union never had a meeting with the minister.
“To date the Ministry of Health cannot state what they have done to correct this anomaly in this regard,” Mullings said.
“The minister said he will employ additional contract workers. That’s a slap in the face to this profession and to our very own people and to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
Mullings said while there are a laundry list of concerns by nurses, including benefits and on-time pay, he suggested the government focus on redeveloping its recruitment and retention plan to keep nurses inland.
In a phone conversation with Eyewitness News Online, Dr. Sands said, he has no problem meeting with the union members, but he explained there is a process.
“The ministry is a policy creature,” Dr. Sands explained.
“So, the nuts and bolts of negotiation requires that that take place with the administrator officers of government.
“If I’m requested to be there, then I will be there.”
Dr. Sands said while understandably the nurses have felt neglected for many year, it has been less than three weeks since he received the final document of recommendations addressing recruitment and retention plans.
Dr. Sands said there has already been an incorporation of those recommendations into the planning of the next fiscal year.
Acting President of The Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) Dr. Macumba Miller said, there is an urgent concern for recruiting nurses as the country faces the threat of losing specialized nurses to the United States (U.S.).
“The U.S. needs about 1.2 million nurses before 2024,” Miller warned.
“Our population is also aging. We’re about eight per cent over the age of 65 and by 2040 we will be above 14 per cent with persons over the age of 65.
“So, the amount of healthcare workers we’re going to need is going to increase over the next 20 years.”