After a nameless doctor was dismissed from St. Jude Hospital for misconduct, a family called for investigations following a stab victim’s death after being treated at the Soufriere and St. Jude hospitals, and amidst complaints of severe shortages of nursing and medical staff, I wonder why the first area to suffer from the government’s budget cuts was the health sector.
For the purpose of those who may not know, “A sessional worker can be described as a person who is not employed under a contract of employment, and is paid for undertaking work or providing a service on the basis of an agreed range of hours that he/she has worked.” – Ask.com.
On Tuesday, June 3rd, scores of sessional nurses (both retired and new) were allegedly dismissed from the Victoria Hospital, being informed that they would be summoned for their assistance only when necessary, while the salaries of permanent nurses were cut with certain allowances revoked. Doctors were not spared as their sessions and on-call benefits were also cut. The national budget apparently made no allowances for the hiring of new nurses and such will only be done providing that an employed nurse retires or resigns.
“When necessary”? Didn’t The president of the St. Lucia Nurse’s Association, when the invitation from Trinidad welcoming St. Lucian nurses to migrate and be gainfully employed was extended, remind the minister of health and the prime minister that our own country was experiencing a severe shortage of nurses, stating that “the government should only encourage local nurses to take up overseas appointments after taking care of its own” as not to compromise the delivery of health care in St. Lucia?
The minister of health, in contradiction to this statement, claimed that ‘we have a surplus of nurses’ who cannot all be absorbed and need to be given alternatives. Is Ms. (Alvina) Reynolds aware that the IDEAL nurse patient ratio is 1 nurse to 3 patients and that on certain wards the possibility exists of occasions arising where 3-4 nurses are left to care for 40 persons, creating a ratio of 3-13/ 4-10? Is the minister apparently condoning the over extension and overworking of nurses thus placing the health of patients at risk? On a ward with a maximum capacity of 40 patients, or rather on ANY ward, has there ever been the required number of nurses (13) assigned for EVERY shift?
Those things considered, why are 50 nurses (give or take a few) being allowed to sit idly while the public continues to complain about health care services and medical teams complain of understaffing? Do you think that the hospitals or Ministry of Health of Trinidad and Tobago would, before ensuring that provisions have been made for Trinidadian nurses and hospitals to be operating at maximum efficiency, extend such an invitation to St. Lucia? How are the estimated 50+ students who will graduate in 2014 from nursing schools in St. Lucia and abroad supposed to explore other options when those options require at least 1-3 years of working experience in a 100-bed hospital which, considering the minister’s statements and current developments, is nearly impossible?
While St. Lucian nurses have shown that they are indeed skilled and talented, having worked under inadequate conditions with less than the required number of persons, such unsafe practices should NOT be ignored simply because it works or has worked before, as it puts both nurses and patients at risk of negligence and malpractice in addition to the already strenuous demands of their job.
By no means are persons expected to turn down any opportunity for advancement including job opportunities regionally and internationally, but at what cost to St. Lucia’s own health sector? Are the nursing schools on island to be closed because too many nurses are being churned out yearly (as has been quietly suggested)? Do you allow such valuable human resources to go to waste while blatant needs are left unmet?
How could Minister Alvina Reynolds in her various trips to the Victoria Hospital shaking hands and asking questions not have been made aware of the constraints facing the facility? Did she think that adding a row of chairs in the A&E waiting room and hand sanitiser dispensers hospital-wide (which are almost always empty) an adequate enough response or more a band-aid on a stab wound? When does she intend to address the other problem of only ONE doctor manning the emergency room on a weekend? What about the Mental Wellness Hospital where there are only two qualified psychiatrists and accommodation usually over capacity?
While our prime minister is working furiously to create revenue to relieve our national debt (which you may recall during his last stint as PM he joked about it, telling the late Sir John Compton to ‘call 911’ if the growing debt was the emergency he had indicated), both he and the minister of health are apparently willing to compromise the health and safety of citizens and nurses in this endeavour; allowing an estimated 100 young, able-bodied, specially-trained and qualified individuals who meet the criteria for a field which is essentially the foundation of society to contribute to the growing unemployment statistic while awaiting their chance at ‘Better Days’. Seems they should take to the streets, cutlasses in tow, to cut grass with STEP (?).
Where is the SLNA president and why hasn’t she met with the minister or agitated for progress for the profession which she represents? Is she simply sitting idly by? As far as the public should be aware, one of the purposes of the General Nursing Council (as stated on their website) is to “advise the minister of health on nursing matters.” WHAT advice has she been given to be under the delusion that there are too many nurses and that health facilities could use no more?
Is the health sector, and the problems which it faces, going to be brushed under the rug as usual or are they going to be addressed?
Ms. Reynolds and Nurse Leonce, why the silence? You should both feel compelled to divulge the truth to the public while performing your duties of reinforcing and empowering the health sector and its members while ensuring provision of adequate health care resources and services.
The public awaits.
A concerned citizen