West Dem Hospital staff threaten strike if demands not met by month-end

The full staff of the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) returned to work yesterday and gave regional authorities until the end of the month to address their concerns or face a strike.

Nurses and other hospital staff had staged a sit-in on Monday, leaving a skeleton staff, in order to press for the overhaul of the current security system, the pay out of uniform allowance and the hiring of adequate staff.

“Just last night, one of the nurses was robbed outside of the compound. This is just the kind of incident that is worrying staff and then they are concerned for the safety of their patients,” Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) regional representative Monica Walters said yesterday.

Walters stated that by Thursday, the GPSU hopes to have an agreement from the regional authorities as to when the various issues would be addressed and resolved.

The regional authorities yesterday stated that they did not wish to discuss the matter before Thursday. Attempts by Stabroek News to speak with Sanjay Persaud, the acting administrator at the WDRH, were unsuccessful.

Walters said that after meeting with the hospital administration and REO Donald Gajraj on Monday, the staff decided that the end of May is a more tangible deadline to see changes manifest.

“We all agreed that by Thursday the regional administration has to come to us and acknowledge that we have concerns and… to give us a report outlin[ing] what [is] being done and when,” she told Stabroek News.

She noted that the most pressing issue that could be resolved relatively quickly was security as the region could engage with the contracted security firm to ensure that guards on duty are trained.

“They get this month and you see how hard working these nurse are and the staff they want better conditions and they deserve it. The region has one month to get things done or there will be a strike of the entire hospital,” she added.

According to Walters, so far the staff and the nurses leading the cause have proceeded with caution because “they know how short staffed the hospital is and they know that striking will make it so patients are not getting any care and that is not what they want.”

The GPSU is lobbying the regional authorities to ensure that the already purchased medical equipment is in place by the end of the month. One of the nurses who participated in Monday’s sit-in stated, “We are waiting on privacy screens to divide the beds. It’s a bit ridiculous that we are running an open hospital with no patient privacy.”

She said that the hospital was low on blood pressure machines and that those basic necessities should be brought in continually. “We are told that funds need to be released from the budget and then equipment is ordered, but I think well I know that these are basic equipment that are used in physical exams and check-ups, so they aren’t a luxury they are a necessity to better care,” she added.

Another nurse told Stabroek News that “nurses are hoping to transform some of the vacant rooms into nursing rest rooms. We want a few beds and proper toilets.”

Nurses told the publication that they did not want to strike, but they were frustrated over years of mismanagement and needed to take a stronger stance on demanding change. Many felt that an ultimatum had to be given once the administration was being neglectful.

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