While the Public Service Union (PSU) believes that the withdrawal of essential services over the last four day was “moderately successful”, the health ministry is saluting health workers for demonstrating their “unwavering commitment” to providing healthcare in that same period.
The PSU, along with nurses in St Vincent and the Grenadines wrote to the Governor General to inform of their decision to withdraw the labour of all essential workers for four days, from September 7 to 10. This decision was in direct response to an amendment made to the Public Health Act, which they see as an infringement of the fundamental rights and freedom of Vincentians. Under the amendment passed, front-line workers are required to either be vaccinated against COVID19 or get tested regularly at their own expense.
“We started industrial action on Tuesday, when the nurses – Tuesday was a holiday – started to withdraw their services. All indications are that that was moderately successful. There was greater success at places like the Mental Health [Centre]and the Lewis Punnett Home because on some shifts, it had only one person turning up which forced the management in those institutions to have the workers that worked, do double shifts,” Elroy Boucher, the PSU president told SEARCHLIGHT on the third day of industrial action.
Based on the information he was given, Boucher also said staffing was impacted at the hospital to the point where calls were made to nurses on sick leave to work.
The Union’s president said they expected a greater number of nurses to stay away from the job at the main hospital but that the union was nevertheless very thankful that there were nurses who withdrew their service.
“…Perhaps maybe next time, those who were swayed in one way or the other – because one must not forget that there was a concerted effort made by the administration to try and get the nurses not to withdraw their service. Despite that, many of them did,” he said.
The Ministry of Health however, had a slightly different story to tell about this week’s withdrawal of service.
The ministry issued a release yesterday evening, informing the public that “during the last two and a half days of the industrial actions, health workers demonstrated their unwavering commitment and solidarity to the delivery of health care to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the healthcare system and patient care”.
It also stated that records show the staff of the Hospital Services provided remarkable and adequate coverage in various service areas.
According to the figures presented by the health ministry, full attendance was recorded for workers at various institutions from Tuesday September 7 to 9 including at the Argyle Isolation Centre, Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre and the Levi Latham Health Centre.
Data shows that during the morning shift at the Surgical and Accident and Emergency Departments on Tuesday, September 7, all nurses were present.
Only one of seven at the Medical Department; one of four from the Paediatric ward; two of 10 at the Operating Theatre and four of six from the Maternity Wards were absent during the morning shift on that same day.
One nurse each was absent from the Medical Department,
Paediatric Ward, Accident and Emergency and the Operating Theatre, during the afternoon shift on Tuesday.
A total of seven of 10 expected to be on call were absent from the Maternity wards during that shift.
The Ministry’s record also shows that of 26 workers expected to be on duty during the night shift on Tuesday, six were absent.
On Wednesday, September 8, no nurse was absent from the Operating Theatre during either the morning or evening shift. Only one nurse was absent for both the morning and evening shift at the Accident and Emergency Department.
During Wednesday’s morning shift, two of seven were absent from the Surgical Department, one of eight from the Medical Department and one of four from the Paediatric Department.
No nurse was absent on either of these three wards during the afternoon shift on this day.
The Maternity wards recorded the highest amount of absenteeism on this day with eight of 10 workers being absent during the morning shift and four of seven from the evening shift.
On September 8, 17 workers showed up to work the night shift while nine were absent.
According to the Ministry’s figures on yesterday’s attendance, no nurse was absent during the morning shift at the Surgical, Medical and Accident and Emergency departments, or from the Operating Theatre or Maternity Wards.
The Paediatric department was short only of one worker during both morning and evening shifts.
Half of the nurses expected to be on duty at the Maternity ward were absent during the evening shift, while one each was also absent from the Operating Theatre and Surgical Department.
Four of nine were not present for the evening shift at the Accident and Emergency Department.
“We salute the unwavering commitment of our staff members and appreciate the patience and understanding exhibited by our patients during this time,” the Ministry’s release said. “The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment takes this opportunity to reassure the nation that we remain committed to providing all health care services essential to life and healthy living.”