Minister of Health and Wellness, The Most Honourable Jeffrey Bostic, addressed the nation on December 20, 2021.
This came on the heels of a meeting with the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) which resulted in several decisions being made to address the concerns they have as a group.
Some nurses, led by Senator Caswell Franklyn who heads the Unity Workers Union, went on strike in an attempt to get some of these issues resolved.
“I am happy to report that the meeting was very cordial and that this really paves the way forward for trying to improve the working condition of our nurses,” Bostic said in a virtual media conference that was streamed live.
President of the Barbados Nurses Association, Valerie Francis-Miller and public relations officer Ryan Lewis were also present.
The following areas were put on the table during the meeting which started last Friday and concluded on Monday.
Appointments: Bostic said 335 appointments were already done, so there were very few outstanding. Only five or six cases remained unresolved and there were a few more names the BNA would submit for consideration.
Transportation: Nurses in rural area and some at the Geriatric Hospital called for transportation support during “unsociable hours”. Some stationed at the St Lucy District Hospital, the St Philip District Hospital and the Gordon Cummins District Hospital called for the service. An agreement was reached in principal, but details are to be worked out.
Uniform allowances: The Minister with responsibility for the Public Service asked for proposals on allowances across the service. The report is to be submitted by the end of the current year. There has been no change to uniform allowances since 2009.
General allowances: A comprehensive review on all allowances, not just for nurses, is to be undertaken. This will be done in the next financial year. In the meantime, nurses will be issued with scrubs instead of the traditional uniforms and one ceremonial uniform will be given. There will be a limited option for traditional uniforms for the public health service.
Laundry service: This will be reviewed. There will also be quarterly reviews at the polyclinics.
Communication: Described as a “vexing issue” but one which must be addressed. A committee will be set up to ensure communication occurs in a better fashion. Managers across the healthcare system will meet on a quarterly basis. The Chief Public Health Nurse and the Chief Nursing Officer will also be part of the group.
Environmental matters: These have been ongoing across the sector for some time and resulted in refurbishment of the clinics at St Joseph and St Andrew. Work was also done at the Maurice Byer, Randall Phillips and Winston Scott polyclinics, as well as the District Hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Geriatric Hospital. Ongoing projects should be completed by the end of the financial year.
There will be regular industrial cleaning at healthcare institutions. A cleaning and maintenance protocol for each institution will be set up, supplemented by quarterly visits and reports from the Environmental Health Team.
Efficiencies in the service: An Efficiency Committee will be established by December 31, 2021 with responsibility for procurement of supplies across the healthcare sector.
Late Payments: A Committee will be set up to deal with “late and sporadic payments” in the civil service. It will comprise the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Director General of the Public Service, a Member of the Barbados Nurses Association, a secretary and others to be named.
Training for nurses: This will continue, especially for specialist positions, through the University of the West Indies and Chamberlain University, which is allied to the Ross University School of Medicine.
Nurse practitioners: Government is moving ahead with this manifesto promise. Ten people were identified to do the course which should have started in September at Chamberlain University.
Flexi-time: Arrangements are being put in place for this.
Medical insurance: The BNA was advised to consult with other public sector bodies which have successfully instituted this benefit, like the Sanitation Service Authority, and present a proposal to Government.
Other issues were also on the table, but the Minister said they were “internal” and would be dealt with. (SAT)