For years, nurses have been complaining about working conditions but their cries have been falling on deaf ears.
Now, soon after ANN published some of the concerns and the public started reacting, nursing authorities have started responding in what appears to be a move to address those concerns.
A number of nurses have been pressing demand for an increase from one to two nights off per week as they complain of being burnt out.
The nurses have complained that sometimes because of tiredness only one nurse might show up to work on a ward where five nurses should be working.
In a recent interview with ANN, the nurses said they have always been working six days per week with a day off and the issue was brought up more than one time that they are feeling burnt-out but their concerns are yet to be addressed.
The nurses are complaining that sometimes they have to work afternoon shift and then report for work at 7 o’clock the next morning.
“So we bring it up over and over and tell them it’s not sufficient. They say they understand and they going and try to do something about it,” another nurse said.
The nurses said that in 2016 the authorities did a trial run with a programme that was called a pilot duty. They said the pilot was done where nurses worked two nights per week and they got two days off and it involved the operating theatre, Accident and Emergency and the pediatric ward.
When the study was done everything was sent to the Chief Nurse who was Peggy Da Silva but no one got back to them on the outcome of the pilot programme.
“Nothing came back to us. Two years later, 2018, she said that in order for her to bring the duties onboard they will have to do another pilot study seeing that that one was done so long ago. So, in 2018 it was done in Female Surgical, Maternity Ward and Male Medical. Since that was done, nothing came back,” one of the nurses said.
They complained that this is the year 2020 and the authorities have been saying they were waiting on feedback from the chief nurse.
“So, we have been trying for four years now to get the duties done so that we can at least get another day off,” another nurse said.
In a memo dated November 16th, 2020, Chief Nursing Officer Peggy Da Silva said a proposal for addressing duty roster for nursing services was submitted on September 21st, 2020, “through the established ministerial protocol for onward transmission to the Honourable Prime Minister, should it meet with ministerial approval.” She said she was “awaiting a response.”
The memo further stated: “I was advised by the Senior Nursing Officer that this information was communicated to staff under their areas of responsibility. However, in the event that the information was not communicated to everyone, I humbly apologize and I assure you that we will work assiduously to improve on communication.”
The nurses said that in August of this year, nurses met with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves because nobody was listening to them.
“We had a petition going around the hospital asking persons for the Covid duties at the time because the covid duty was where you worked 12 hours per day for three days – which is the 36 allotted hours we were supposed to work. However, they say that no we cannot get the Covid duty.
“We even asked for a change of shift but nobody still can’t give us an answer with regards to that so we took it upon ourselves to go further, which was to get a meeting with the Prime Minister. So a group of nurses from different areas went. When we were speaking to the PM, the PM even turned to the PS who was sitting next to him, which is Cuthbert Knights, and told him right in front of us that it is really hard, or crazy, something like that,” a nurse said.
The nurses said the Prime Minister told them he thought they were getting the two days off. They said all he nurses present at the meeting confirmed that it was only one day off they were getting and he promised then that it would be done within a couple of weeks.
“We want the duty that the Prime Minister say we should have,” the nurses are demanding.
They said they did not go to the Chief Nurse because of past experiences with the pilot duty programme they decided to go straight to the Prime Minister.