Thursday, 16 August 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John’s - Principal Nursing Officer Mrs. Elnora Warner has told Caribarena that the concerns of some in the nursing profession are impractical and unwarranted.
Warner was at the time responding to concerns about the arrival of several Cuban nurses to take up posts at the Mount St. John’s Medical Center (MSJMC) while local nurses who graduated from the Antigua & Barbuda School of Nursing out of work.
She said that although the matter is in the hands of the Head of Department at MSJMC, general knowledge of the arrangement between the Antiguan and Cuban governments would serve to the benefit of those concerned.
Caribarena was informed that the presence of the new batch of nurses is the hospital’s way of further enforcing a 12-hour shift system on all nurses at the institution. This is a system that has reportedly been met with notable resistance since its introduction in mid-2011.
Warner said that based on her knowledge of this system, it is supposed to be an optional shift.
She added that contrary to reports, the system was actually introduced by nurses themselves to fill a shortfall. It reportedly started in the Theatrical Ward at the former Holberton Hospital and was adopted at MSJMC by nurses in the Emergency Room as well.
“I know it is not the only shift and as far as I am aware it is not mandatory. Nurses themselves introduced it as far as I know after recognising that there was a shortage. In looking for ways and means to deal with the shortage of nurses they came up with it.
“It was something that was done way in the past and they came up with it as a form of …measure to deal with the shortage at the time. They may have continued with it but I am not sure of the conditions,” Nurse Warner said.
She added that from her knowledge of the system, nurses who work the shift are actually given time off that is arranged in a manner to provide for adequate rest.
MSJMC Director of Nursing Natalie Southwell, she suggested, would be better able to explain the system.
Responding to some complaints of totalitarianism in whether or not nurses should work the shift, Warner said she would have to first verify these complaints independently before making a pronouncement.
Caribarena had spoken with trade unionist Stafford Joseph who had stated that the whole notion of a 12-hour shift was illegal under the labour laws of Antigua & Barbuda. And referring to Joseph as “a guru about the labour laws”, Nurse Warner said she would opt not to challenge the assertion.
She did, however, maintain that the system was not designed to put nurses in a “slave-like” situation that would undoubtedly serve as counter-productive to the overall objective.
Further, she intimated that some of the same nurses contesting the system are the ones who work at both government and private institutions and are sometimes guilty of “shortchanging” the public hospitals to fulfill duties at the private clinics. Some of these individuals, she said, she has personally caught red-handed in calling in sick to the hospital while attending work at the private clinics.
Returning to the issue of imported labour, Nurse Warner pointed out that another part of Antigua & Barbuda’s agreement with Cuba does not just only see the arrival of nurses but also the emigration of Antiguan students to Cuba on scholarship grants for studies in all areas of academics, including medicine.
She added that Antigua has recently taken the position to limit the amount of nurses it takes from Cuba to only those with specific specialties.
“Antigua now limits the number of nurses it takes and those who arrive are not taking the places of any nurses here. We have cut down on the number and the selection process is rigorous. Plus they are not being paid by MSJMC. They are paid from the Medical Benefits perspective,” Nurse Warner said.
In explaining the process for a local graduate to actually become a nurse, Warner said, “They have to write and pass the school exam, then write and pass the regional exam to be licensed to practice in the region. From there they have to apply to the Nursing Council to be registered because the practice is governed by a Nurse Regulation Act,” she said.
The latter process is said to be underway for some half a dozen nurses who would have recently successfully completed the regional exam.
Warner said, too, that the notion that these individuals after being certified would actually seek stable employment with the hospital is a bit farfetched, since some nurses actually prefer a part-time system that allows them to work flexibly with both hospital and private clinics.
“I am very pro nurse. I am a nurse and so I am very interested in nurses’ welfare and would not encourage injustice against them. But I also believe in proper and accurate information and I do not appreciate the twisting of information from nurses or others regarding the system and its application,” Nurse Warner said.