Nurses: Minister Steele should apologise publicly

Health Minister Nickolas Steele has been called upon to issue a public apology to health professionals, especially the nurses and doctors attached to the Maternity Ward at the St. George’s General Hospital over statements made last week in relation to the reported deaths of three babies at the health facility.

During a live broadcast of the post-Cabinet press briefing last week Tuesday at the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens, Minister Steele reported to the nation that all three babies died within 24 hours at the General Hospital and attributed the deaths to “a failure in the health system” due to what he said is a bigger problem of “a human touch or a lack thereof.”

He told reporters that government wished that those employed “within our ministry as Service Providers recognise their purpose, feel remunerated and appreciated for the job that they do as well, and in doing so, we can demand that the patients are treated in a professional manner, in a humane manner”.

He spoke of Medical Consultants engaged by government being present on the grounds of the hospital when the babies died.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the Health Minister retracted his statements on the death of the babies after meeting with senior health officials including doctors and nurses at an emergency meeting held last week Thursday.

However, the President of the Grenada Nursing Association, Patricia Strachan has since requested that Minister Steele make a public apology in the media on the issue.

Nurse Strachan has labeled the Health Minister’s statements as “untrue, disrespectful and distasteful” by seeking to put the blame on the nurses at the Maternity Ward at the hospital.

She charged that “if our Minister of Health provides inaccurate, misleading information, that instill fear in the citizens of Grenada, regionally and internationally…we believe that (the Minister of Health, Social Services and International Business must be disciplined also”.

“We view the pronouncements made by the Minister of Health as unethical and irresponsible,” she said.

There are reports that three babies did not die at the hospital on the day as reported by Minister Steele.
Nurse Strachan also demanded the health Minister to disclose his source about the babies and all other information surrounding their deaths.

“Being a responsible organization… (we need) to find out exactly what happened because there was no specific (information as) to which group of health professionals that the Minister was speaking about,” she said.
According the female President, “based on our knowledge, our nurses operated professionally and there were no deaths (at the Maternity Ward at the hospital) on Friday (May 9).”

She gave assurances that when the result of the investigation into the deaths as alluded to by the Minister at last week’s press conference is revealed then the association will be prepared to take the necessary actions.

”We know that our nurses are knowledgeable and possess the technical skills and personal skills but as any other institution, improvement is needed…our nurses do so much with so little,” she remarked.

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) also joined the call by the Nursing association for Minister Steele to publicly apologise to the health professionals, especially the nurses and doctors at the Maternity Ward for his detrimental statements.

The party’s spokesman on health and wellness issues, Ali Dowden used Monday’s weekly press conference by Congress to describe the utterances of the senior government minister as “misguided and unfounded”.

“This (the public apology) is yet to be done and so we (NDC) want to call on the minister to make a public apology for his statements, which really threw the nurses and doctors under the bus and have painted them in a bad light and had also caused some fears today in the public domain, especially persons wanting to deliver babies at the Maternity Ward at the hospital”, said Dowden.

The Congress Executive member chided Minister Steele for speaking out of turn on the issue of the deaths of the babies and should follow protocol.

Dowden pointed the health Minister to existing legislation like the Grenada General Hospital rules, which is established in Section 20 of the Schedule CAP 130A of the laws of Grenada in which the Chief Medical Officer is identified as the one who has general supervision at the hospital.

This, he said essentially means, “the minister should receive (the) information like what he received last week, from the CMO directly” and no one else.

He urged the minister to “sit down and study the laws that governs the health sector, those being the Grenada Hospitals Authority Act 130A, the Medical Practitioners Act 132A, the Medical Officers Act CAP 188, the Private Hospital and Nursing Homes Act CAP 254A and other relevant acts which govern the health sector.

“These are some critical pieces of legislation that the Minister of Health needs to take a look at if he seriously intends to address the issues in the health sector,” he said.

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