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Nurses Welcome to Work at QEH, Says Head

Published : DAILY NATION, August 3rd, 2020
Written by CARLOS ATWELL ( carlosatwell@nationnews.com)

THE GHANAIAN NURSES are welcome to work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), says executive chairman Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland.

Last Thursday, 95 nurses from the Republic of Ghana in West Africa arrived in Barbados on a two-year assignment to complement the workforce within institutions such as the Geriatric Hospital and QEH.

However, it was subsequently realised some of them had not arrived with the required negative COVID-19 test and, following local testing, nine of them were positive for the virus. This prompted Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George to advise that “out of an abundance of caution” everyone who met the nurses that day, including journalists, to self-quarantine and be tested. This included Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic, Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins and Bynoe-Sutherland. The hospital executive chairman, speaking to the DAILY NATION yesterday on the phone from herself-imposed quarantine, said she was cautiously optimistic and did not want anyone, including the nurses, to be stigmatised. “The infected nurses will be isolated and treated like every other person who tested positive for COVID and when they are cleared, they will go to work, including at the QEH. Many Bajans have had the experience of being COVID-positive and have been cleared and returned to work, though there are reports of some stigmatisation.

‘Do not stigmatise people’

“I am not advocating for anyone to be discriminated against. In this era of COVID, it is important we do not stigmatise people who have tested positive. We need to be careful how we treat those who have been cleared,” she said, adding the fear surrounding COVID reminded her of the early days of the HIV epidemic. Bynoe-Sutherland said she was currently separated from her family and while it was tough, she was feeling fine and had not exhibited any symptoms. She said she expected to be tested within a week and thanked the hospital team for its “full support”.

As for how the nurses ended up interacting with others without knowledge of their COVID status, George said while Barbados’ protocols allowed them to act quickly, it was really preferable for anyone coming in to do their part. “We have been asking people to come to Barbados with a negative test, no matter where they are from. We have been testing here, but we prefer visitors to have their negative tests beforehand,” he said. On Thursday, George said it was unfortunate many of the Ghanaians had not arrived with the required negative test results, but he said the nurses were chosen to come to Barbados because investigations showed they were highly trained, adding what happened was “worrisome on paper, but the good news is that these persons are here to eventually help us”. Concerning those who now have to self-quarantine, George said that while he did not have the number to hand, everyone affected, including journalists, had been contacted and instructed on what was going to happen.

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