President of DNA Rosie Felix

President of the Dominica Nurses Association (DNA), Rosie Felix has used the occasion of International Women’s Day which was observed in Dominica last week, to appeal to the government, police force and the general public to help support and protect the nurses.

Felix made her statement in a press release issued on Monday.

“The theme for each International Women’s Day is not only for reflection but for action, not only for a day but until results are obtained. Today, I stand in solidarity with my sister nurses and raise again a longstanding issue which is gravely affecting their mental health, family life and performance at work. I feel disgusted about the increasing verbal abuse and threats of physical violence by selected individuals from the public who target health workers, the majority of whom, are female nurses,” Felix complained.

The DNA president supported her claim by pointing to some specific incidents and attacks which she said, threaten the lives of the nurses.

“The incidents at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) are most likely higher but Community Health Facilities are affected too. In the last two months attacks at the PMH have driven nurses to hide under desks, behind fridges or out of the Accident & Emergency Department in order to save their lives from the perpetrators,” Felix explained, “Last month they ran from a man who was brandishing a knife whilst looking to take revenge on a patient he claimed had injured his family member. What is most disturbing is that security personnel are either inadequate, ineffective, ABSENT or are PART of the PROBLEM.”

She went on to elaborate, “I have been informed that on February 7th a security guard was heard encouraging an angry client to stone the nurses at the A&E. He has since been fired by the security firm responsible. On March 8, I was also informed that a police officer allowed unauthorized persons to enter the department much to the inconvenience, fear and distress of the team on duty and those caring for the gunshot victim at the time.”

She also revealed that in June 2018, a male patient on Imray Ward was taken into police custody for making violent threats to a nurse.

“I am more than saddened that at a critical time like this, when nurses and doctors are leaving the public service in large numbers, more is not done to ensure a safer environment for these professionals to give care and for the public to receive care,” Felix lamented.

She expressed gratitude for “the little that is done” but insisted that any remedial action that is taken must be “effective, adequate, reliable and it must be 24-7.”

“Going forward I suggest a strong visible policy statement by the Ministry of Health, in every healthcare facility on how violent patients and visitors shall be managed according to state laws; crowd control from the gate of the facility particularly following the admission of victims of motor vehicle accidents, gun shots, murders, disasters etc,” Felix stated.

She also recommends a minimum of three police officers 24-7, two to be stationed at the A&E Department and one to patrol the compound, the withholding of weapons at the security office until the owners depart from the facility and the authorizing of security personnel to handle violent patients or visitors who pose serious threats of injury or death to health workers and patients.

“This insecure practice environment adds to the plethora of factors that push our health professionals away. The International Council Chief Executive, Howard Catton, on speaking to nursing shortage and nurse retention recently said, ‘There is no single answer to the problem of nursing shortages, no silver bullet, but as our recent policy brief showed, we need to implant a range of actions to foster positive and supportive working environments, including fair pay, safe staffing, professional and career development, and the absence of violence, bullying and harassment’  (Nursing Times, March 4, 2019).”

Felix said both nurses and citizens would benefit much if the government would only heed these recommendations.