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At a time when the government is scrambling to get critical systems in place to strengthen the country’s defence against the coronavirus, it appears the nation will be forced to deal with another crisis — a shortage of nurses who are among the main frontline workers.

In recent weeks, nurses have been expressing concern about myriad issues such as a lack of protective gear, and the alleged absence of proper procedures to deal with patients who test positive for the virus and are left in their care.

The issues were further compounded by the fact that at least three healthcare workers have tested positive for Covid-19, and this has sparked a sense of fear and anxiety among others in the medical profession.

Observer was reliably informed that a large number of emergency first responders have also been sent on sick leave. These workers are mainly employed at Mount St John’s Medical Centre, the country’s main hospital.

In an interview earlier this week, president of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses’ Association (ABNA), Soria Dupie-Winston, said some nurses were on maternity leave, while others had been sent home because they have pre-existing health conditions which would make them vulnerable to the coronavirus.

On Thursday, the ABNA head revealed some of the nurses were pregnant, while others were suffering from diabetes, hypertension, asthma and heart disease – all of which put them at grave risk of Covid-19 complications.

Dupie-Winston was unable to confirm how long the nurses would be away from work.

However, she denied claims that they were acting in protest, and noted that ABNA had not sanctioned or given instruction for any of its 300-plus members to take industrial action.

Health Minister Molwyn Joseph told Observer he was not aware of the situation. But he added that it is not uncommon for nurses to be afforded leave from work.

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