The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) yesterday expressed
concern over the country’s nursing programme, saying that overcrowding and poor training facilities are a threat to the quality of health care in Guyana.
The union also gave the Ministry of Health one month to fix a number of issues such as overcrowding and poor toilet and training facilities. The union said it has discovered cases of mentally ill persons being accepted to train as nurses, with even an instance where one was sent back from Cuba because of problems.
According to Patrick Yarde, President of the Union, it became concerned when the Guyana Nurses Association (GNA), of whom a number of staffers are members of GPSU, on January 10 had urged the Health Ministry to halt the admission of students to the nursing programme, claiming that the training was being compromised by overcrowding, poor accommodation and insufficient tutors, among other depressing factors.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran, had subsequently responded and reportedly is quoted in a newspaper as saying that “GNA is not the body that admits nurse trainees and does not have the power to deny another batch entry …”
In rejecting the Minister’s statement, the union said that it had been monitoring the deteriorating conditions at the nursing school to see if pertinent action would have been taken to remedy the undesirable state of affairs.
“Instead and perhaps in defiance of the enlightened advice tendered by the GNA, the Health Ministry went ahead and advertised, in the Guyana Chronicle of February 8, 2012, for yet another batch of nurse trainees.”
GPSU said it carried out its own investigations and found not only the GNA’s assertions to be true but the union was “alarmed and astonished by the findings”.
Among some of the problems uncovered were that a few “mentally challenged” students were accepted into the programme without the Ministry providing the requisite facilities to cater for their special needs.
“There were over 500 students in the school, with both males and females forced to share eight sanitary facilities during a 15 minute break and one hour lunch period. There were only four fulltime tutors for the professional programme, including retirees who, most likely, were rendering a service to their noble profession because of their care and concern.”
There were 10 tutors- five of whom were retirees with three members of the GPSU and two new staffers- at the school.
“Because of the limited space/accommodation, students were taken in groups of 12 to the room for practicals. The single tutor assigned to the groups for this purpose became exhausted after dealing with about three groups. The public address system used in the lecture room was unsuitable.”
GPSU also found classroom seating, ventilation and personal space were inadequate to accommodate numbers in excess of 100 students and this was compounded by a public address system, of a single speaker, which was inaudible to many students.
“Because of the large size of the class, examinations have been diluted. Even with this diminution, students progressed to other subjects without knowing whether they passed or failed the previous ones. Results for examinations in a number of subjects, taken since July 2011, were still outstanding.”
There was also overcrowding of clinical areas (wards and clinics of the hospitals) which impeded effective communication and compromised the teaching/learning process.
“As a result, there was no proper supervision and evaluation of the student nurses, who spend two weeks, instead of the required one month rotation period, in the clinical areas. Not every student nurse got to rotate to all of the departments (especially the Intensive Care Unit, High Dependency Unit, Ear, Nose and Throat Department, Eye Clinic and Pediatric Care Department) in the hospital, so as to gain the required knowledge and experience.”
The library was also limited in its books, many of which were outdated.
“Given what we have outlined above, the Union shudders to think that professionalism and quality of output, that is, well trained and competent nurses and health care professionals, are being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency: where quantity trumps quality; where there is a seeming insensitivity and disregard for quality health care,” Yarde said during the press conference at the GPSU headquarters on Regent Street.
“No responsible person should knowingly allow this alarming situation to continue, for not only is it unfair, demotivating and perhaps depressing to the tutors and students but it is also putting the general public at grave risk.”
The union yesterday called for an immediate assessment of the quality of the student nurse output and redress of the many problems.
“These problems are compromising the training of the existing student population and putting unbearable strain on the tutors and other personnel responsible for training them. The GPSU points out further that this reckless and irresponsible behaviour on the part of the Minister and the Ministry of Health has implications for the image and credibility of the Guyana Nursing Council (GNC) on the one hand and recognition of the certification issued by the Council, on the other.”
Exposing the students and any further intake of nurse trainees to such an experience would shatter their legitimate expectations of becoming properly trained and competent health care providers, the union official said
“We ask that the Minister not play politics with the lives of the student nurses, tutors, other health care providers and the public, the latter of whose confidence in the public health system has been shaken by a series of inexplicable deaths.”
Some 472 persons working at the GPHC, including doctors and nurses, are members of the union.
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