Barbados: Nurses fleeing adverse conditions

Barbados Today:-A damning picture has been painted of the state of nursing here, with many of the health care professionals said to be fleeing due to adverse working conditions.

Outgoing President of the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) Blondelle Mullin Wednesday night revealed that late pay, poor security and working conditions, and inadequate tools have been par for the course for nurses for much too long, with no apparent end in sight.

Consequently, she told the BNA’s annual general meeting at Accra Beach Resort in Rockley, Christ Church, nurses were becoming despondent, leading to an “exodus of nurses from the workforce, from Barbados, or out of the profession altogether.

“This is due to retirement, illness, frustration, career changes and greener pastures and a host of reasons. But the fact remains that the . . . [number] of nurses to adequately service the population is dwindling and efforts to address this remains null and void,” Mullin said in her final report as head of the association.

Those left, she charged, were so overworked because of an undermanned health care system, that they often suffered from “burn out”.

Already thinly stretched, Mullin complained, the nurses were being asked to work way beyond the call of duty and were being assigned to take on additional tasks at new or extended health care facilities.

“There have been several new departments and a new polyclinic like the David Thompson Complex which used the same complement of nurses to service these areas, so obviously there is depletion at the other institutions.”

Mullin, who retired last year after some 40 years of service, exposed conditions under which the nurses work as challenging at best.

The health care givers sometimes faced “issues with burglary and security issues” at the Geriatric Hospital “with main doors not locked at night, and intruders use it to hide and steal nurses’ property.

“Most of the institutions, especially the psychiatric hospital, have a whole host of issues including the physical plant and supplies and having adequate material and equipment to deliver adequate nursing care.

“[The] sick building syndrome is still a concern especially for nurses at some of the institutions,” she said.

Added to these concerns, nurses were often called upon to work long hours, yet they were paid late and received supplies late at best, the retired nurse said.

“Nurses are concerned about appointments especially the staff nurses as this causes problems monthly, with the late payment of salaries, as well as obtaining a loan at our financial institutions.”

And with the struggling economy affecting Government’s ability to address all the grave concerns, Mullin suggested “if nurses cannot be compensated in pay, due to the economical challenges, at least their working conditions should be better”.