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Nursing shortage worries TTRNA

The trinidad Guardian / The T&T Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) is blaming unfilled vacancies and the presence of only one registered nurse on any ward as the main reasons for the high death rate within the institution under the North Central Regional Health Authority’s purview.

As a result, the TTRNA is calling on the NCRHA to immediately fill “the over 200 hundred registered nurses/midwife/nursing assistants vacancies within the institution.”

In a strong worded memo to all nurses on October 17, the TTRNA called on nurses to desist from opening new wards/clinics until the appropriate safe staffing levels are reached. The memo was signed by TTRNA president Ida Stuart.

“With the recently reported hospital deaths coming to the attention of the TTRNA, most of which appear to be related to shortage of staff within EWMSC, TTRNA can no longer tolerate the unsafe practice of having one registered nurse manage a ward with 20 or more patients,” Stuart said in the memo.

One nurse, who wished to remain unidentified for fear of victimisation, said she lost a patient as a result of being the only one on the ward.

“I remember one day I was the only one there and two patients crashed at the same time. I had to resuscitate one of them but the other, I was forced to watch the patient die on me because I could not attend to both at the same time. I felt like I couldn’t live with myself after, but that’s the reality of the situation when we are forced to work alone on wards that have a lot of patients,” the nurse alleged.

It is alleged registered nurses are being forced to work alone on a ward without any help and if they refuse their superiors are victimising them.

As a result of this, the TTRNA advised all nurses working within the NCRHA, in particular the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) and Mt Hope Women’s Hospital, to indicate they cannot function under such conditions if they realise they are alone on a ward.

“Request administration to provide an additional registered nurse to work with you on that shift, as you can be held accountable to the patients and the regulatory body for exceeding your scope of practice,” Stuart advised her colleagues.

Stuart warned that the TTRNA is also mandated to be the advocate of patients and as such will utilise all legal options at its disposal to fulfill its obligation.

The TTRNA also asked the NCRHA to convert all contract positions to permanent employment of all nursing personnel to provide security of tenure.

But in a release yesterday, NCRHA acting chief executive officer Davlin Thomas said over the past six months they had taken the strategic decision to improve the patient, staff and visitor experience at their facilities.

“This includes the authority’s decision to eradicate situations where a sole registered nurse is assigned to a ward. We have already implemented new measures to ensure that our nurses and enrolled nursing assistants are given the additional manpower, tools and resources they need to deliver quality healthcare to our citizens,” Thomas said.

He said the authority had already adopted several innovative approaches that are successfully addressing the shortage of nurses.

“More than 45 nurses have already been accepted to the pool, and more are being added daily to supplement the efforts of our nurses who are already permanently employed within the NCRHA,” Thomas said.

Thomas also said they had introduced of a monthly roster system that incorporates the additional people in the nursing pool to ensure a minimum of three nurses are assigned to each ward on every shift.

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