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The concerns of the Linden nurses that resulted in taking to the streets are legitimate and should be addressed as a matter of urgency. Guyana has had the benefit of observing other countries dealing with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This virus started in January in China and spread to other areas. When the spread reached the United States (U.S) in February, Guyana sat up and started paying attention.
Many Guyanese have loved ones in the U.S and were transfixed and horrified with the toll the virus took on lives, the hospitals, nurses and doctors. We saw the deaths rising and fear gripping many overwhelmed and searching for answers. Many Guyanese residing in the U.S contracted the virus and/or lost their lives. Guyana had the benefit of observing the safety measures other countries put in place, after initial hiccups, for the essential workers.
In early March Guyana reported its first victim, Ratna Baboolall, who died at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Ms. Baboolall had recently arrived from Queens, New York. The rate at which the virus is affecting the general population is giving rise to concern that if not being properly managed by the Government, it can reach epidemic level. It is the Government’s duty to lead by policies, engaging with stakeholders, proper treatment of essential workers, adhering to COVID-19 international guidelines, etc. The health of the nation is the welfare of government.
Those nurses, doctors and ancillary staff in the hospitals and health centres around Guyana are putting theirs and their families lives at risk to save the lives of others. Any caring government would know, in grave situations such as now, the economic and psychosocial wellbeing of these frontline workers are critical.
Our nurses should not have to be on the streets protesting for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). They should not have to be on the streets protesting for gowns, googles, face shields, proper masks (N-95), gloves, and shoes covering. These are Occupational Safety and Health equipment necessary for them to function. They are critical to providing proper care and preventing the spread of the virus. There is no vaccine to treat the COVID-19, Healthcare workers’ best inoculation is prevention and prevention is hinged to providing them with proper PPE.
Nurses should not have to protest for risk allowances and timely payment of salaries. The coronavirus disease could lead to death. The last time the world had to deal with a virus of this magnitude was the Spanish Flu, more than a century ago. It goes without having to ask that the healthcare workers deserve additional incentives for the grave risks they encounter daily. A caring and compassionate employer will initiate such financial support without protest.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic when in opposition repeatedly condemned the Coalition Government (A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change). The previous government was accused of not managing the virus properly. From the moment President Irfaan Ali was sworn in, on 2nd August, his government became responsible for the situation.
It is an understatement to say persons are living in daily fear as the infection and death numbers keep climbing. It is the nurses who will play a pivotal role in caring for the sick. Their basic needs must not be taken for granted. If they are not given the needed PPE and financial adjustment, it would be inhumane to ask and expect them to give of their best. Admittedly the profession is humanitarian not monetarily driven, but these humanitarians are currently operating in a very dangerous environment.
Nurses must be treated better. Promises to expedite their pleas must not become opportunity for political finger pointing or dispensation of political revenge. The nurses working for the government are employed by the State and care for all. Their employer, the Government of Guyana, must do better for them. It is only fair.