Staff at Clarevue continue protests; Nurses Association calls for government to act

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Staff at the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital have continued their protests in an effort to highlight their frustration over the lack of improvement in their working conditions.
The issues surrounding the mental hospital – including the poor bathroom facilities, lack of proper medication for patients, a lack of steady running water and the lack of nurses at the hospital – have been well-documented by various news sources.
The protesting staff said numerous issues remain unresolved, particularly the lack of medication, which puts nurses and patients at risk of serious injuries.
According to one of the protesting nurses, “We do not have something as simple as Zestoretic and Preterax, which are high blood pressure medications for our patients. Not even psychotic medications for these patients that are relapsing. We cannot have patients becoming more ill because they will injure each other and us.”
“The hospital needs major infrastructural changes and the mental health laws need to be revamped. The Ministry of Health has delayed making these improvements and has been putting Clarevue on the backburner,” said another of the protesting nurses.
Additionally, security for nurses during the night is also a concern as the nurses are more often the only members of staff on duty.
“We also need more nurses and officers, especially during the night shift, where frequently there is only one security officer when the nurses are working, which is crazy,” said one protester.
According to the shop steward, Bridget Alexander, the hospital has “already had a breakout of scabies and we do not want to have members and patients contracting it again. However, the facilities remain deplorable and there continue to be no changes.”
Alexander also alleged that the superintendent at the hospital has treated the protesting nurses unfairly.
“We were assured by the Minister of Health that all staff members would have access to the bus service, so when the superintendent told the bus driver that he did not have to pick up any protesting nurses, [we were not pleased],” Alexander said.
She also added that, “The doctors have only come to the hospital for three hours a day. At night, they are rarely around and only give instructions to nurses via cell phone. They only know anything about the patients because they ask us.”
Meanwhile, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association Karen Josiah said organization hopes to add more pressure on the government to act.
“Over the years, there have been increasingly more protests from the same institution and we [at the Nurses Association] are of the opinion that the Ministry is not giving us respect. We believe that if the members of the association were to join in the protest it would add pressure,” Josiah said.
Josiah said that she hopes that the concerns of the protesters will be addressed soon, and she was careful to assure the public that there is a contingency plan in place during the protest action.
“Anytime there are nurses protesting, there is always a contingency plan. We understand our roles and responsibilities as essential workers, and we would never leave a patient abandoned,” she said.
She also questioned why the Ministry of Health has so far failed to address critical issues at the Clarevue Hospital.
“If you say we are important and critical, why do nurses need to protest to get basic amenities like a bathroom? We believe that the Ministry needs to put its money where its mouth is and treat them with the same respect as other workers,” she concluded.

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