COVID frontline workers requesting honorariums

THE EXPERIENCE –Nurses at the COVID Unit say that working in a pandemic is mentally draining. (PHOTO: JAIMIE SMITH)

A group of 20, inclusive of nurses and other healthcare staffers of the COVID Center at Cancer Association Building stood with one voice Tuesday (September 14), airing their displeasure over promised honorariums.

The “gift” as it was termed by Health Minister Renward Wells, was to be distributed to frontline health care professionals, "who worked tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19."

PCA (Patient Care Assistant) Kenneth Fowler spoke on behalf of the staff, expressing that while they remain dedicated and committed to their jobs, they request what was promised to be paid in full, sooner rather than later.

“We, your nurses, love what we do. We are committed to the service of our Bahamian people. We perform excellently under the greatest pressures that life has thrown our way in healthcare. Our temperament has been next to perfect during these past years because we realize that as a nation, we have been going through trying times.

“When we were finally being recognized by our government, with a small token of appreciation for our efforts, that was the light at the end of the tunnel for us as a whole. Yet, to no avail, we were let down by our heads of the nursing department and administration at large. This whole COVID Unit has not been paid the full honorarium, when in fact, all we have been doing for the past 15 to 18 months is being at war,” Fowler maintained.

 Also, according to Fowler: “Our Minister of Health had guidelines as to who would be qualified for the full amount of $5,000.00 and we, this COVID Unit, fit that description to the ‘T.’”

The group was outraged to have received what they claimed was the same amount of those working in “low-risk” areas.

“Some of them outright refused to work or come near our doors when we toiled and put our lives on the line time and time again. This is an outcry. Our management has dropped the ball with leadership yet once again. Why do we always have to take great measures just to get the same service from our heads of department, when we, the staff, serve under them so tirelessly.

“We want to know when will the remaining balance that is owed to us be presented,” Fowler said.

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard stood in solidarity with the nurses and staff at the COVID-19 Unit.

“This morning, I want to say thank you to all of the persons who have been on the frontline, assisting the country as we battle the pandemic. There are few groups that you can single out in the way that you would single out nurses for the sacrifices that they have made, and then the broader COVD Unit that continues to put their lives at risk in order to save lives in our country. We have to make a firm decision at the PHA (Public Hospitals Authority) to ensure that what is due to all of our service providers is taken care of.

“As I have shared privately with some of the persons who are here today expressing their concerns, the Cabinet of The Bahamas requested the list to be sent to have it revised to include those persons who had made the sacrifices, who were there from day one; to make sure that their needs are properly taken care of.

“It is no secret to the Bahamian community that a tremendous amount of the service providers in the health care field are leaving. Persons have gone to Canada, the United States; it is in our collective interest as a country, to make sure that those who are still here, still on the frontline, get their just due,” Pintard said.

Pintard voiced that the list should be revisited.

“I am here today in support of what I believe is a reasonable request, to revisit the lists that have been granted; to look at the guidelines and to make sure that we say thank you. The amounts that are being discussed does not compensate for the sacrifices made but it sends the right signal, that we value those persons who continue to sacrifice. We stand in solidarity with them and I am confident that this is a matter that must be resolved,” concluded Pintard.

A recent patient of the facility, Bishop Sobig Kemp, senior pastor, Freedom International Ministries was also present to lend his support.

“Just recently I spent about two weeks here at the Cancer Association because of COVID-19. I just want to express to them (staff) how at peace I was while I was here as a patient.

“One of the things that I noticed was the stellar service that they offered. They were very cordial, very courteous, very kind and very mannerly. I just want to say thank you to these workers; to all of the nurses and the staff.

“I had to be here to support them and I would like to encourage those persons who are responsible for remuneration, to please value our service workers. Value them and give them the full value because when people are valued they return that value to us,” Kemp said.

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