GPSU threatens to call strike over nursing school programme

-issues 30-day ultimatum

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) yesterday lamented the low quality of the delivery of nursing education by the Guyana School of Nursing and vowed that if no remedial action is taken in one month the tutors could be called off the job to pressure the Health Ministry into creating a more conducive environment.

This was revealed by GPSU President Patrick Yarde at a press conference his union held yesterday, at its Regent Street office, in support of the Guyana Nurses Association’s (GNA) call for the halting of admission of new recruits to the nursing programme.

The GNA had previously been openly critical of the system used to admit nurses, the overcrowding in the classrooms and lack of professionals to teach the trainee nurses.

Citing the Ministry of Health’s recent advertisement in local newspapers for another batch of applicants for the nursing assistant training programe, for which the deadline is today, Yarde said it was an indicator that the ministry intended to disregard the GNA’s recommendations.

President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) Patrick Yarde (centre) flanked by other union officials at the press conference yesterday.

He said the union will not sit idly by and was giving the ministry one month to address issues of concern.  “Steps that we may have to take may end up at the point where we tell our members to withdraw from participating in this activity… Our members are the tutors and some of the students,” Yarde said.

“Within a month we would look to see if positive steps are taken, one month,” he added.
The GPSU president said he would not want to believe that the large intake of trainee nurses and subsequent overcrowding was done only for political mileage, according to what he was told. “The union shudders to think that professionalism and quality of output – that is well-trained and competent nurses and health care professionals – are being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency where quantity trumps quality,” he said.

Yarde informed that for every batch of students taken in, there are only 10 tutors, eight of whom are affiliated to his union. They constantly complain of being overwhelmed.

President of the GNA Joan Stewart, in an interview on January 11, told Stabroek News that the large numbers and frequent intake of trainee nurses, along with other medical training maladies, were having an adverse effect on the overall quality of healthcare and how local nurses would be perceived overseas.

It is for the latter reason that Yarde too said he wants remedies put in place to “keep the good name of Guyanese nurses. This reckless and irresponsible behaviour on the part of the minister and the Ministry of Health has implications for the image and credibility of the Guyana Nursing Council, on the one hand, and the recognition of the certification issued by the council on the other.”

Yarde said the GPSU had undertaken an independent assessment of the overall quality of the nursing programme and found it wanting. Deficiencies included admittance of more than one psychiatrically  unstable trainee, a malfunctioning public address system, an antiquated library that lacked relevant texts, poor ventilation and not enough bathrooms to meet the demand of the over 500 students during the short recess and lunch  intervals.

Another major concern was that there were not enough theoretical and practical evaluations, especially in wards deemed critical when fulfilling the requirement of the Trained Nurses Programme.

These wards are: the Intensive Care Unit, the High Dependency Unit, the Ear Nose and Throat Department and Paediatric Unit.
The GPSU said it would be willing to render assistance in finding mechanisms that could alleviate the situation should the Ministry of Health ask.

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