PHA decides against implementing eight-hour night shift for nurses


Tribune Staff Reporter 

THE Public Hospitals Authority has decided not to implement a new eight-hour night shift system, which was vehemently opposed by the Bahamas Nurses Union this week.

According to PHA’s Deputy Managing Director Lyrone Burrows on Friday the decision was made after union officials brought it to their attention that the new system, once implemented, would have had serious implications for the current system as agreed in their contract. 

This comes after BNU President Amancha Williams told The Tribune that the union intended to take legal action against the government after more than 100 new nurses were allegedly put on a shift system that the union has consistently opposed.

The nurses and the PHA have been battling the shift issue for more than two years.

However, on Friday during a Ministry of Health press conference, Mr Burrows noted the new system was not meant to replace the existing one, but rather to help increase the number of shifts in response to COVID-19’s impact on workers. 

He said: “As it relates to the Public Hospitals Authority, we have categorically reviewed this particular matter and we can state that we have not changed or implemented any shift system that is new or an attempt to eliminate the four on four off that is in place.”

“Instead, we attempted to increase the number of shifts that were available given the number of our nurses who are currently out either on isolation or by virtue of quarantine.”

“Based on the surge of cases within The Bahamas, we attempted to increase the number of nurses who would be able to utilise the shifts that were currently in place. As a result of that, we have been in dialogue with the union as they thought that we were attempting to implement a system that would eliminate the four on four off system.”

He continued: “What the four on four off system does is it actually reduces the number of nurses that are in play to provide coverage up to about 25 percent. We had a cadre of nurses who have been appointed to the PHA whose contract allowed for them to work eight hour shifts.

“With the eight-hour shifts, it would not present the opportunity for the four on four off shift to be in place and therefore, we would be in a position where we would have significant improvements in coverage.

“Once this matter was brought to our attention by the nurses union, we reviewed it and we’ve made a decision that for the time being that we will not move forward with this new eight-hour shift at night. As a result of that, we will have some challenges in terms of providing the necessary coverage.”

On Monday, Ms Williams said between 100 to 200 new nurses recently received letters indicating they will work five eight hour shifts per week. The shift for established nurses is four on/four off.

She also said some nurses in Grand Bahama reportedly called in sick to protest the shift condition.

On Friday, Mr Burrows said officials hope to have the matter brought to a conclusion shortly, allowing for operations to return to normal on Monday. 

“Some of the nurses have been calling in sick over the last week or so and as a result of that, we’ve had some challenges in terms of providing full coverage,” he said.

“We also note that we’ve attempted to eliminate the changes that would’ve been implemented over the last week. However, it would’ve created more disruption if we were to eliminate or reverse that during the course of this week.”

“So, we anticipate that this will be concluded by the end of this work week and, effective Monday the 19th, we will go back to our normal schedule.”