NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Nurses in Grand Bahama are reportedly calling in sick today amid revelations that a long-protested shift system was embedded in the appointment letters of new hires.
Bahamas Nurses President Amancha Williams told Eyewitness News that she is investigating reports that members have called in sick and suggested the action could be more widespread as the Public Hospitals Authority moves to enact the “hidden clause” across facilities.
Williams said the eight-hour shift system has already been implemented for nurses in Grand Bahama who signed appointment letters that contained the clause.
She said she was contacted by management at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre to discuss scheduling changes at the facility this week.
“From 2019, they were secretly doing it,” she said.
“It came to light because now they want to implement it, they want to change the whole shift.
“Everybody they brought in new, signed this letter with the shift system in it.
“Not just ex-pats, this is Bahamian nurses. They’ve gone and breached the Industrial Agreement. Everybody has to give an account of what happened, that’s deception.”
Williams claimed the union was not informed of the clause or changes to appointment letters and suggested nurses were unaware of its deviation from the BNU industrial agreement.
She said the union has attempted to reach out to the minister and relevant stakeholders to address the matter, but have not received a response in the past two weeks.
Williams continued: “A nurse called and told us they already have a shift change for all in Freeport, and they said they were told they have to work the shift change because they signed an appointment letter.
“They didn’t know what they were signing but if you really read it it’s there, and if you don’t sit down and look then you would have not known it. You have to look at these clauses, they put them on the roster already throughout Freeport but only those nurses that signed appointment letter are going to work it.”
The shift change from four on/four off to five on/two off was announced by the Public Hospitals Authority in 2018 and repeated attempts to implement it have been staunchly protested by the union.
The latest clash comes as COVID-19 cases in the country topped 5,000 over the weekend, with officials reporting the healthcare system is overcapacity.
Williams said: “They are now implementing it, in a pandemic season they are doing this. At the end of the day, if you changing the shift then you must give a shift premium. They haven’t done that so you know they don’t have our best interest.
“Nurses signed those letters thinking it was the standard, all of this they are doing not knowing. It goes against the industrial agreement, the clause that’s deception. They should be held accountable for this, this is illegal.”
She added: “We want it to be known in the news that The Bahamas, please gear up yourself, make sure you’re well because we’re gonna be short-staffed. We’re already short-staffed, can we carry on like this in a pandemic?”