BAMP says safe zones could have serious implications for healthcare workers

The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) has called on Government to suspend its safe zones initiative with immediate effect.

President of the umbrella organisation of doctors and medical students, Dr Lynda Williams said the suspension was necessary to allow for proper consultation among the relevant stakeholders.

Dr Williams revealed that the consensus was reached by BAMP’s membership following a meeting on Monday evening, the same day the safe zones concept was rolled out.

BAMP also met with Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic and other senior health officials yesterday.

“BAMP met with the medical fraternity on Monday, November 8, 2021, and our doctors voted by a 75 per cent majority to call for the immediate suspension of this legislation, until such time as a proper consultative process with key stakeholders and the social partnership is implemented,” Dr Williams said in a press release issued this evening.

The BAMP president chided Government for its decision to incorporate safe zones without proper consultation, contending that the safe zones were rushed and had serious implications for healthcare workers.

“BAMP has recommended on many occasions that COVID-19 vaccination be required of healthcare workers, as a public health measure for protection of vulnerable members of the population. This measure has existing precedence and is an accepted standard worldwide, along with testing for COVID-19 according to risk.

“We are disappointed, however, that the Emergency Management (COVID-19) (SAFE ZONES) Directive, 2021, while apparently attempting to achieve public health objectives, was developed in haste and apparently without consultation. We believe that the concept of a “safe zone” in which the public would have to reveal vaccination status or test results, should not be applied for access to healthcare. While we accept the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ explanation that this was not the intent, the ambiguity in the wording of the legislation has led to unacceptable confusion for patients in the past few days,” Williams further maintained.

“We believe that there are also implications for the terms and conditions of work for healthcare employees, with respect to existing labour legislation, that seems not to have been considered. Healthcare workers, who have sacrificed tirelessly throughout this pandemic, should not bear the brunt of Government’s missteps.”

Several doctors complained to Barbados TODAY on Monday that a large number of unvaccinated patients cancelled their appointments because they were unsure whether they were allowed to visit a doctor’s office, which formed part of the safe zones.

Yesterday the health minister admitted that the safe zones had not been executed as smoothly as anticipated.

Bostic signalled Government would have to go back to the drawing board to remedy the situation and would be meeting with doctors, nurses and members of the trade union movement.

“It is obvious that some things have not gone right in relation to the roll-out of the safe zones and there are some issues being raised by various entities, the BAMP (Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners) for example, and some of the issues are legitimate,” Bostic acknowledged at the time.

“My intent, along with the team at the ministry, is to listen to what the stakeholders have to say. We will dialogue and I will come to the press before the week is out to be able to address this matter fully with all of the relevant information, ” he assured.

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