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We are working on the issue of properly relieving nurses

We are working on the issue of properly relieving nurses
Minister of Health St Clair “Jimmy” Prince

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At least one nurse assigned to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) is calling on those in authority to do better by the nation’s frontline workers.

The woman, a frontline worker at a time when cases of Covid-19 are rising in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that many things are unsatisfactory in relation to protection of healthcare workers from the potentially fatal disease.

The minister of health has however said the ministry is working hard to “rationalize the nursing situation”.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of victimization, the nurse said the MCMH is “horribly short staffed,” while space to ward coronavirus patients is dwindling.

Since the upsurge in Covid-19 patients needing care, the female surgical and female medical wards at the MCMH have been merged into one unit, as the female medical ward is now being used to care for Covid-19 positive patients.

“The chief complaint is that they are taking nurses and rotating them. So one night you can be working with COVID-19 patients and the other night, you are working with other patients.

“They say they are doing this because they don’t want one set of nurses exposed to COVID-19 all the time. While I can see the point in some way, my question is, why expose all the nurses?” the medical professional questioned.

She said “no proper protocols” have been put in place for nurses who work with COVID-19 patients as when they come off duty, they are not placed in quarantine or provided with transportation to get home. Instead, they take whatever transport is available, whether public or private.

“Doctors and nurses have tested positive for Covid-19. When nurses work with patients out at the Argyle Isolation facility, they not going to quarantine after and they don’t swab for the virus and wait. They going home to meet their families,” the nurse, who admitted to being scared, explained.

She said while some nurses are “young” and may be able to fight off a coronavirus infection, there are persons in their homes who are high risk.

“…And no matter how we talk, they saying we don’t have the facility to house the nurses to quarantine after work. They were doing that in the beginning, but now, is just Argyle or wherever and back home and we wonder why Covid-19 getting out of control?” the irate nurse said.

She said another issue is that when members of the public are required to do a Covid-19 test, many times, persons use whatever transport is available to get to the testing site and then leave the same way. This, she said exposes members of the public.

“You can get test results by email, but the results are not being emailed,” she said, while explaining that some persons who tested positive had used public transport to return to the testing site only to hear that they tested positive, therefore exposing several other persons.

She said also that there are nurses with underlying conditions and recently one such nurse refused to work with Covid-19 patients and she was asked to write a letter that was placed on her file.

“We have no clear cut direction and when you question certain things, it is always ‘Office say so’. So because Office say so I must endanger my life?

“Nurses frustrated and fed up and personally I think that is why they going on sick leave. A lot of nurses are on sick leave. Nurses are being called back from vacation and they are physically burnt out and mentally frustrated.

“They say we getting two days off, but one of the days we still on call. That is just some of the issues. Is like people afraid, to call a spade a spade,” the nurse noted.

The nurse also claimed that some members of staff are not always provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“It is unfair that the male and female attendants are not properly covered. A female attendant has Covid-19,” the nurse revealed while noting that workers sometimes have PPE and sometimes they don’t.

“They could pick up Covid easy. The male orderlies lift and transport persons in wheel chairs and the female orderlies bring lunch and clean and wipe down and they don’t always have PPE. There is a yellow gown, but is just to put over your clothes. We need more PPE,” the nurse said, adding that the issue of cross contamination is real as they sometimes have to move back and forth between wards.

She said sometimes, there are two nurses on duty to deal with upwards of 20 patients.

“Some people on eight or nine medication and have plenty needs. That is why patient care can’t get better. Two nurses for 24 people whole night. Even before Covid-19 we never have enough nurses.”

The nurse is also calling on the police to do better and the thinking by nurses is that law enforcement is not working hand-in-hand with healthcare workers.

“In other countries police dispersing people, but yesterday I saw a funeral, Randy Dopwell. It was big with many persons wearing no masks. We have to operate with sense,” the nurse said while adding, “we know we have to do the work, but we burnt out.”

Minister of Health St Clair “Jimmy” Prince, in response to the issues raised, said on Wednesday that his ministry’s main focus is rationalizing the nursing situation.

He said they are aware of the shortage of nurses and the issue of how to properly relieve nurses who are working with Covid-19 patients. He however does not agree that there is a shortage of PPE.

“Some nurses have gone away to England and also there is the sick leave problem,” Prince said while noting that several nurses are on quarantine because persons in their household and at work have tested positive.

“…And some stay home because they are burnt out,” Prince accepted, while adding that they have hired 23 nurses and are attempting to recruit more.

“We appreciate the fact that they are burnt out as the result of pandemic. I am in active discussion with the top brass of the nursing system and we talking about how to fix the problems,” Prince said.

“I think that after the budget, we will have a handle on it as we try to rationalize the nursing situation. That is the main area of our focus”.