The implementation of a new shift system for hundreds of nurses who serve in the public healthcare sector is set to improve the delivery of healthcare, according to Public Hospital Authority (PHA) executives.
Catherine Weech, Managing Director of the Public Hospitals Authority, announced Wednesday that effective December 10, a standardized eight-hour daily shift and a 40-hour work week will be introduced.
“The new shift system will eliminate the inequity caused by our four nights on and four nights off shift system, which results in night duty nurses working only 157 days per year on average compared to 234 days on average for all other nurses,” Weech explained.
The PHA Managing Director said the Agreement finally puts to rest a number of longstanding contentious issues between PHA and the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU).
The new shift system replaces the current 10-hour shift for night duty nurses and also eliminates wage disparity between foreign and Bahamian nurses.
“All nurses employed by PHA, whether foreign or Bahamian, will be treated equally,” she said.
“There is no inequity in the employment, and or the pay for individuals employed by PHA.”
Once the new shift system comes on stream, any nurse who is requested to work over the prescribed eight-hour shift will be paid $1.75 per hour in addition to their hourly base salary.
“These changes to the work schedules of working staff is a testament of PHA’s ongoing commitment to ensure that its human resources policies are consistent with ratified labour agreements and regional and international practices,” Weech noted.
According to Lyrone Burrows, Deputy Managing Director of the PHA, nurses gave no pushback to the new shift system, which complies with the Employment Act of 2001, the 2015 industrial agreement signed between the PHA and the nurses’ union and a specific agreement signed between both parties dated December 9, 2014.
“Maybe we waited too long to get to this point,” admitted Burrows.
“But, this is where we are at now and we think at the end of the day it will bode well for all of our nurses once it is implemented.
“We anticipate that there will be some growing pain as persons adapt to the new system, but in the end it will reap benefits for the PHA and nurses at large.”
Burrows confirmed the new shift system will not only provide the healthcare system with more hands on deck, but it will also prevent the hospital from having to fork over enormous amounts of monies for overtime pay.
PHA executives said they welcome further discussions with the union regarding additional improvements that can be made to enhance patient care and coverage.