A threat of industrial action has been set on the table by the Karl Heusner Memorial hospital workers union regarding the concerns of the frontline staff at the KHMH as it relates to the coronavirus epidemic. The proposed plan by the Ministry of Health (MOH) has the workers of the KHMH up in arms as they deemed the plan as “inadequate”. Their main concern is that the MOH plans to have the isolation area inside the hospital which can pose a risk to other patients inside the hospital and put a strain on the staff itself. The workers also stressed that they are unequipped, understaffed, and working in unfavorable working conditions. Love News spoke to the President of the KHMHA and she explained their plight in detail.
Lidia Alpuche Blake, President, Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Workers Union: “Let’s plan something for the nation, it’s coming. We don’t know at what level we will reach it but we cannot put the only national tertiary referral hospital for the public in jeopardy by putting the isolation within the hospital – get a Mennonite house probably outside. Our press release was sending that message to them, let’s bring all who are on the ground to the table here and find how we can find a solution that will work for the nation.”
Andrew Baird, Vice President, Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Workers Union: “The union’s position in reference to the use of Karl Heusner to isolate or see patients diagnosed or with symptoms of coronavirus is no. This is not about Karl Heusner, this is about the nation of Belize, can the country of Belize afford for the national referral center be quarantined for one day, two days or three days because there is a widespread of COVID-19 among the staff and other patients within this institution? Because once we have a widespread among staff they will quarantine Karl Heusner. Can this country afford that ?”
According to the Vice President of the KHMHA, Andrew Baird, the isolation units are not up to International Safety Standards, regardless of renovation attempts at the hospital’s Physiotherapy Department. Any identified area should have been separate from the hospital’s infrastructure.
Andrew Baird, Vice President, Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Workers Union: “We have been in the prepared isolation room and I am saying it is not the type of facility that would be needed for the Coronavirus isolation patients. We need a negative pressure room, what they have there is far from negative pressure. If you go in yourself or I believe they took your on a tour or they will something like that but first of all let’s look at the ceiling, the ceiling is porous, you need a non porous ceiling. All the light fixtures must be properly sealed. The doors must be self sliding doors in a negative pressure room- the doors that are presently there, all the doors, are doors that I after I go in and take care of that patient and get contaminated I will have to put my hands on those doors somebody else comes and puts their hands on those doors. Furthermore the doors are not sealed; in other words the virus, bacteria will flow under the door into the corridors and innocent staff and other patients that have nothing to do with the care of these patients will get sick. In a negative pressure room the AC unit is a no no. In Singapore they have done a research after three patients with Coronavirus were in a room they have tested the AC and the AC tested positive for Coronavirus which means that the virus, bacteria travelled through the AC system. Karl Heusner for in most of the places have one central unit they will want to come to us and say “Oh we have divided the AC unit or so.” we’re saying no AC business in an isolation room for this COVID-19 virus but moreover all of that should not be of concern if we say no, no to Coronavirus patient isolation in Karl Heusner. The country ,the people of this nation cannot be put at risk for not having the tertiary level care that they need in other words they are not considering the people with the diabetes, the people that god forbid that they don’t have traffic accidents – we have been pleading to the gang rivalry people to please ease down with the gun violence and we cannot stop them so when they get shot and Karl Heusner closes down where will they go ? They cannot go to Southern Regional because Southern Regional normally sends them to us. They cannot go to Northern Regional because we are the national referral center hence I am saying to the powers that be, rethink, find somewhere else to do your critical care there are portable ventilators, there are portable oxygen and stuff you can create an environment for that. I can give a proposal, they can close down Cleopatra White Health Center and use it, it’s a controlled environment it has gates and stuff like that who goes in and who goes out so I’m saying to them again no to Karl Heusner, the staff of Karl Heusner is saying no, why put our lives at risk.”
The Union also feels that the safety and health of their families have not been taken into consideration as it relates to the epidemic.
Lidia Alpuche Blake, President, Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Workers Union: “What will happen to me when I get exposed ? What are you doing for me this extra thing that we are doing – this is an extra I can’t even find the word because we quote our oath and your pledge I am a nurse and I’ll always be a nurse but I’m now a specialist nurse and a doctor will be a doctor, we have our oaths our patients are there we are here to serve but I also have to think of myself as a mother I have two sons and my husband waiting for me so each employee have their family, you are first and foremost and then you think of when you come here your patient is important because as I said when I have a patient in front of me that patient is my mother, my father, my brother, my sister so I must be advocate for my patient.”
Andrew Baird, Vice President, Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Workers Union: “What I want to add in reference to safety and protection of the staff at Karl Heusner attending to these patients with COVID-19 what they are saying to us is that after I finish my eight or twelve hour shift attending to a ventilated patient with COVID-19 that I will bathe and go home while CDC is saying that any medical personnel around the world that deals with COVID-19 patients from medium category to high level category meaning the most critical that they are to be quarantined for at least fourteen days or more while Karl Heusner is saying to us you will be sent home- no regard for the safety of my family but yet we must consider working in an environment of such. No to Karl Huesner being used as an institution for isolated patients for COVID-19 under these circumstances of not having proper facilities and equipment for us to work.”
A meeting is ongoing at this time with the Union and their board members so we will have more on this story on tomorrow’s newscast.