NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams said only one nurse showed up for work this morning at the Princess Margaret Hospital’s (PMH) Accident & Emergency (A&E) department during the fourth day of action by nurses across the country.
Just over 200 nurses called in sick at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC), and the Rand Memorial Hospital yesterday amid growing tension over working conditions and a new shift system.
Williams said that number is expected to double today.
“Once you have your sick slip and you call in, we don’t know what’s going on, but if you call in sick you call in sick,” she said.
“We know that there’s a lot of issues brewing and that nurses are unsatisfied with the poor conditions that they are taking care of patients and they are not pleased that the patients are being taken care of in these conditions.”
“They are not just fighting for themselves. They are tired. They are mentally drained. they are overwhelmed. Some of them are literally sick with the COVID.”
Williams noted that there are still a number of nurses out of the system after being exposed to COVID-19.
She noted that at last report 190 nurses were still out for the virus.
“Those nurses that called in sick added to what is already out,” she added.
“The government don’t have no respect, no compassion, no love at all for the essential workers, the front line workers.”
Williams said she could not indicate when the action would end despite reported threats that nurses will be reprimanded for their actions.
“You can’t penalize no one with a sick slip and went to the doctor and was seen by the doctor no one must threaten no nurse because the union will be out on the streets,” she said.
On Monday, some nurses in Grand Bahama called in sick amid claims that a long-protested eight-hour shift system was embedded in the appointment letters of new hires.
Williams has threatened legal action over claims, insisting that nurses were blindsided and the new system represents a breach of the Industrial Agreement that covers all nurses working in the public sector.
The Public Hospitals Authority has said they are looking into the matter but has maintained that no change has been made.
Director of Labour John Pinder also said he has seen no evidence that there have been changes to the shift system for some nurses and he is investigating the matter.
A&E at PMH requires at least 15 nurses for efficiency, according to Williams.
She said the department is seriously understaffed with only seven nurses working at a time.