Nurses protesting this morning

A peaceful protest, dubbed the “campaign against bullying”, in which several nurses from the Dominica Nurses Association (DNA) have risen against what they say is the bullying of staff attached to the Acute Psychiatric Unit by their boss, continued this morning.

The gathering however was called a “meeting” in which nurses sought to present statistics and educational data on the issue of bullying.

A number of nurses bore placards at the event.

Head of the Dominica Nurses Association Rosie Felix has said that their actions are not as a result of the disciplining of one nurse but due to bullying of several health officers over the years.

Felix who spoke to media the outside the APU this morning, said that the association has made its concerns clear to their relevant authorities.

“When I listened to the news it came about as if we were demonstrating because one nurse was ‘disciplined’. I wanna clarify the air today. I wish to make it categorically clear that this campaign against bullying is not about one nurse. It is not about three months. It is about several officers and several years,” she said.

“We have made our concerns known in writing to the powers that be. The solution has been to transfer the officers to other departments, of course when you do not address a problem effectively it returns. This is just what has happened and in the last few weeks we have decided to launch this public campaign therefore to send a strong message to all,” she stated.

On Wednesday head of the department Dr Griffin Benjamin had denied accusations of him or any of his staff bullying health officers. Benjamin had  pinpointed a particular senior nurse, whom he said was the only nurse attached to the APU involved in the protest. He said that this particular nurse, who started working at the unit three months ago, was not performing her duties adequately so he recommended her removal from the unit.

“I have no experience on this ward of ever attacking a nurse. The only thing I would do is I would write to the supervisors to explain. I believe if there is anything connected to this activity today it would have to be that in December in while reviewing the staff composition in the unit, I wrote three letters about staff members who I felt in 2010 did not perform adequately,” he pointed out.

He continued, “I am not their immediate supervisor, I am not the one who do their annual appraisal but when I admit a patient there constitutionally, the court and the government expect me to be responsible for their health. So I take on my own – maybe the other doctors do not do it – and I write to my administrative boss, to my permanent secretary, and I copy to all of the supervisors that ‘X’ nurse or ‘Y’ nurse is not performing adequately and is not helping the process to go forward.”

The psychologist said that he has seen a lack of work ethics within the unit as it relates to nurses.

“There are times when there are clashes in opinions and sometimes when I am very unhappy with the fact that their work ethics is unsatisfactory. This is probably the only section in the nursing area where staff believe that there is no work to be done-(like) all you have to do is lock the patient up and go home. And they would give medications to the patient but then at times when you look for staff members they are out of the ward, gone,” he said.

“So I do write to the matron, I do write to the principal nursing officer and I write to my permanent secretary to explain to her when I’m unhappy. If that is bullying well I am sorry. I’m trained to manage, I’ll manage in this way,” he stated.

Benjamin also mentioned a problem which he said he has made consistent complaints about to his superiors – the lack of training for mental health nurses.

“They have not done any of the formal training, and so sometimes they have difficulty understanding the process that is being followed at the psychiatric unit,” he added

Today, a senior nurse called for the appropriate chain of command to be followed while one other health officer claims to be banned from a consultant’s rounds.

“But the nurse have right to be on the doctor’s round,” Someone added, “but of course it’s our responsibility!” another one echoed.

All nurses wore green ribbons as the symbolic color for the mentally challenged. They plan to do so till the end of the month.

The gathering, again, was convened on a portion of the lawn located at the side of the APU building, allowing the free flow of traffic in and out of the grounds. At least six police officers, were present this time, including a police photographer.

“Bullying in the workplace is wrong! We condemn it and ask the perpetrators to stop. We also encourage employees everywhere to reject bullying in the workplace and make their workplace a bully-free zone,” Felix said.

Citing that bullying has gone on for 10 years, Felix hopes that by year-end there will be no more reports of emotional abuse.