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Hospitals affected by missing nurses

Published:Wednesday | April 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Health care at 11 public hospitals across five parishes was disrupted yesterday after scores of registered nurses called in sick, the second time in a month.

At the Kingston Public Hospital, for example, more than 15 patients lined up outside the Renal Unit for hours waiting to be put on dialysis.

"Dem say dem nah dialyse anyone so we must go home 'til Friday. Me can't stay out eight days (since her last dialysis) ... a dead me a go dead," a tearful Judean McPherson told The Gleaner.

The health ministry released a statement close to midday saying some of the affected hospitals would only treat emergency cases, while others had cancelled elective surgeries and placed senior nursing staff in some critical areas.

The statement said the matter had been referred to Labour Minister Pearnel Charles.

When contacted, Charles said he had just left Cabinet and had not been brought up to date on the latest development.

The Nurses' Association of Jamaica (NAJ) would not acknowledge any protest action, even though the sick-out is widely believed to be part of their plan to press the Government for their retroactive payments.

"I can't tell you what is happening out there," said NAJ president Edith Allwood-Anderson.

"That lies with the Ministry of Health as the employer to indicate what they are hearing or seeing on the ground," she said.

However, she said no one should be surprised, since nurses had already made it clear that they "will continue to impress upon the Government to pay up".

UHWI nurses call in sick

When contacted, chief executive officer of the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr Trevor McCartney, disclosed that 31 out of the 176 nurses scheduled for the early shift had called in sick.

He said the obstetrics and psychiatric departments were mainly affected by this "above-normal absenteeism".

Spanish Town, May Pen, Mandeville, St Ann's Bay, Port Maria, Lionel Town, Bellevue and National Chest hospitals were the other hospitals affected.

The island's nurses are pushing the Government to satisfy an Industrial Disputes Tribunal ruling to implement a reclassification exercise.