Thu | Jan 20, 2022

Headache hits NERHA as nurses call in sick

Published:Thursday | August 26, 2021 | 12:10 AM

Nursing managers in hospitals across the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) region moved quickly on Wednesday to fill the void created by the sickout of nurses, thus avoiding a critical drop in healthcare delivery in St Ann, St Mary, and Portland.

Thirty-seven of 90 (41 per cent) nurses scheduled to work called in sick on Wednesday at facilities in NERHA, including the St Ann’s Bay Regional, Port Maria, Annotto Bay, and Port Antonio hospitals.

Nurses called in sick to protest their working conditions and a declaration from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that no group would be predetermined to receive priority COVID-19 hospital care.

Prior to this latest development, Patsy Edwards Henry, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), lamented that nurses were being overburdened by the heavy workload amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

But a spokesperson from NERHA said the region was coping.

“We are managing very well. The nursing managers have taken up the slot,” the official confirmed to The Gleaner.

Thirty-five of 59 nurses expected to work at St Ann’s Bay Regional turned up on Wednesday, while 13 of 31 were absent at Port Antonio. Two did not report for duty at Port Maria. They did not call in, and it is unclear if their absence was linked to the protest action.

Neither the Annotto Bay Hospital nor the health departments in the three parishes were affected.

“Overall, 53 of the 90 nurses expected turned up for work,” the official concluded.

Senior medical officer at St Ann’s Bay Regional, Dr Tanya Hamilton, disclosed that Wednesday’s sickout was having a significant impact on operations.

“The hospital is effectively run when you have a crucial set of people so you can understand it significantly impacted on the management of patients and the running of the hospital,” Hamilton said.

At Port Antonio Hospital, 11 nurses scheduled for the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift called in sick.

Chairman of the hospital board, Audley Lindo, said the normal operations were continuing at the health facility as some nurses were working double shifts to alleviate the shortfall. There was no report of patient care being disrupted because of the sickout.

At Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas, nine of 15 nurses (60 per cent) called in sick Wednesday morning.

The workers joined other health workers across the island who have become restive over growing fatigue in managing a surge of hospitalisations and deaths of COVID-19 patients.

– Carl Gilchrist, Shanna Monteith, and Gareth Davis contributed to this story.