Nurses in Grenada are credited with giving momentum to the push by the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) of Maurice Bishop to galvanise the population against the elected Eric Gairy government.
Bishop, a lawyer by profession, had just returned home from studying in England when in the early 1970’s he joined nurses in a march through the streets of St. George’s to protest against working conditions at the St. George’s General hospital.
The NJM moved on March 13, 1979 to stage a coup d’etat, the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, to remove Gairy from power.
Over the years, nurses on the island have staged periodic demonstrations to express their disgust at their working conditions.
The nurses staged a protest on Friday on the grounds of the island’s two leading hospitals at St. George’s and Mirabeau to send a message to the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration to address their concerns.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) of former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke, issued the following message of solidarity to the protesting nurses and doctors:
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) takes this opportunity to express our solidarity with the action taken by you, our doctors and nurses, in protesting the conditions under which you are required to work.
Rest assured that you are not alone in your struggle. We stand with you in the face of the existing conditions that compromise the effectiveness of health care delivery and in your treatment as professionals.
Please remember your greatest strengths are your unity and your determination. As guardians of our health system, you know well that reasonable workloads, appropriate funding for the healthcare system, positive working conditions, and respect for your professions, are key elements for a strong and vibrant health care system.
As Healthcare Providers, you are indisputably entitled to a voice in the terms of your employment, just as employees in any industry are, and we call on the government to respect the action taken and refrain from victimisation of those who are protesting. To you, we say, do not bow to pressure!
Your unjust treatment – the understaffing, overworking, and underpayment, is not only to your detriment, but also to the detriment of patients who depend on your attentive care.
Health workers are struggling with heavy workloads that possibly compromise patient care.
Research has shown that:
*Deaths occur when the nurse to patient ratio increases
*Complications increase in direct proportion to a decrease in nurse staffing
*Readmissions increase in frequency with fewer nurses at the bedside.
Being fully aware of the economic situation that exists in our country, the task of providing adequate healthcare is made much more difficult by the lack of resources.
It would seem that in spite of this, Government does not recognise the urgency of the situation and has given priority to matters such as the lighting of the cricket stadium, a wholly underutilised facility.
We call on Government to apply a greater degree of common sense and prioritise the needs of the healthcare sector in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
We further recognise that vital Healthcare workers are being treated disgracefully by this Government, who were quick to take to the streets a few years ago when in opposition, in an attempt then to politicise the situation, rife with criticism for what they termed as the “NDC mismanagement of the health sector”.
Two-and-a-half years later, and in government, the NNP administration have failed to address the myriad of problems plaguing healthcare, causing it to descend to catastrophic proportions. They now are content with blaming the doctors and nurses and accusing them of being lazy, unpatriotic and absent from work.
The NDC reiterates its call for a complete audit of the healthcare system, for the government to prioritise the needs of the health sector, for this administration to redirect monies to address the problems of healthcare and to implement a more sustainable plan for the health sector such as the construction of the teaching hospital as conceived by the NDC.
We therefore call on everyone to stand in support of our Health Care Providers. No one knows when they will fall sick and need professional, quality care. It is in our own best interest to demand quality healthcare.
United a strong voice can, and will improve the situation you currently face.