Claims of Nurses at KEMH Harassed by Patients and Co-Workers

In March 2018, a former dialysis nurse at the King Edward Memorial Hospital who will remain anonymous arrived in Bermuda from Jamaica. When she first arrived, she was really captivated by the island, its people and its stunning beauty.

“ What stood out for me right away was the island’s calmness, quietness and the cleanliness of the roads,” she said. “ [Most of] the Bermudians that I met are very friendly and I met some beautiful people at a church I attend.”

With all of that being said, however, working as a non-Bermudian nurse here has not come without its fair share of challenges. She had particular difficulty working with one specific nurse for over a year, but after a meeting with their clinical manager it was sorted out.

However, no sooner was the issue with one nurse resolved another issues with other Jamaican nurses arose.
“ These nurses are telling lies on me, discussing my name [and business] with patients, it is not professional at all,” she said. “ It is not stopping and it hurts me so much emotionally.”

She claims to have reached out to her BPSU shop stewarts, her department’s HR manager, her department superiors and even BHB Deputy-CEO Scott Pearman about the abuse and harassment that she had been experiencing. Despite all of this, nothing has been done and the issue was consistently drawn out.

“One nurse came into the clinical area and verbally abused me; telling me that I am wicked, ugly, barren, evil, etc.,” she said. “ She came to my station and did that consistently. I cried while meeting with HR because if that nurse had really hurt me that particular morning, all I received was a ‘Get Well Soon’ card and a bouquet of roses.”

According to her, she was not the only nurse who was continuously harassed within the hopsital’s dialysis department. Six nurses have left that department within the past four months and her last day at KEMH was on December 20. She moved back to Jamaica two days later.

“ I have constantly gotten the cold shoulder [from HR and hospital management], I have to work in pain and I even told them that they were paying [nurses] to antagonize me,” she said.

One day, she was walking along Berry Hill Road after her shift when a car hit her from behind and did not stop. She believes that it could have been the nurse in question who struck her, as she owns a car that looked like the car that hit me.

“ I even told someone that I was going to call the police [over the harassment],” she explained. “ The police spoke with her and that is when I got a letter from the lawyer.”

As previously mentioned, our source has since left BHB, moved back to Jamaica but the dispute has yet to be resolved.

TNN’s Reporter spoke to another Jamaican nurse, who has been working in Bermuda for the past seven years. It did not take her very long to realize that at KEMH, non-Bermudian nurses are treated very differently from Bermudian ones.

“ [Non-Bermudian nurses] were told that the policies which are supposed to be in place to protect everyone does not apply to us and the staff just go along with it,” this nurse, who will also remain anonymous, said. “ Many non-Bermudian nurses feel like they are being used as slaves. They love coming to work, but when they see relatives of patients, they wonder why they are there and often feel like it is not worth it to come to work.”

She added that being a nurse is even more stressful for guest nurses, because they often have to leave their families and friends behind when they come here to help and serve patients.

“ No matter what we do, people are always complaining when all we are trying to do is make them or their loved ones comfortable and help them become more independent,” she said. “ [For the most part], I do not find the general public appreciative [of what we do] at all.”

According to her, every new non-Bermudian nurse that arrives at KEMH has to be paid a large amount of money just to stay and BHB has to bring in new guest workers every three months.

“ [Being a nurse] is not all about money, there is also an emotional side to it,” she explained. “ People do not understand that, even if we work two hours a day at the hospital, we are still impacted.”
Her suggestion to hospital management to make guest nurses’ jobs a little bit easier is to get to know the nursing staff and embrace them for who they are. Just like patients, each nurse is different and unique.

“ Some nurses are quiet and like to observe things and learn by listening; whereas other nurses here are bubbly [and friendly],” she explained. “ Not everyone is the same, just open up to them.”

She would prefer that friends and family members of hospitalized patients stay at home if they have a negative and angry attitude. The nurses are already dealing with a lot and they do not need more negative energy around them at this important time.

“ This was happening way before COVID, so this is not about COVID fatigue or anything like that,” she said. “ Policies are in place to protect staff, but at the end of the day it doesn’t protect them, because [in my opinion], staff really does not count to BHB [management.]”

“The policies were written to guide us in our practice. It was also written to protect staff and patients. We do advocate for our patients weather the relatives believe that or not. The policies that guide us shouldn’t be thrown out the door because someone decides to complain that we didn’t do as they ask. Yes they are a part of the care and we do appreciate them. We believe that if they are not there to help their relatives they shouldn’t be there. They only cause confusion. The nurse’s cannot continue to work under such duress. This in tern leads to mistakes and emotional pent up, with no outlet. Be there for the staff as they are the Frontline.”

TNN sought a response from KEMH’s communication and public relations Manager on these matters here’s the reply.

Q: Is hospital management aware of non-Bermudian nurses leaving in high numbers recently?

A: Turnover is part of normal business for any hospital, and we have over 400 nurses working at BHB, most of whom are from overseas. The last two years have been especially difficult for our overseas staff, as they have been away from family and loved ones during the pandemic, and this can influence someone’s decision on where they want to work. The changes in regulations for travel through our gateway cities and the risks of border controls changing, can make it more challenging for overseas staff trying to visit home. However, this is different to staff deciding to leave for issues related to the workplace. Every individual who leaves BHB is offered an exit interview either in writing or in person, so that we can understand why they are leaving. Where issues are raised that relate to the workplace environment then these are followed up by Human Resources and Organizational Development.

Q: Is the hospital doing anything, or do they plan to do anything, about the bullying and disrespect that is shown towards a lot of non-Bermudian nurses by patients, their families and other nurses?

A: BHB is aware there can be incidents of bullying, harassment and incivility whether it is between staff, or it is actions by patients or their families against staff, or staff with patient or families. This is not an issue for just non-Bermudians. Bermudian staff can also have challenging encounters or experiences with colleagues or patients/families. We are a large organisation of 1,800 people and often see patients and families when they are unwell and anxious. We are keen to encourage staff and their managers to recognise bullying, harassment and incivility and report it when it happens in their areas, or to them. BHB has a policy that provides processes to deal with these incidences, but we are aware that not everything gets reported, or it is reported after relationships have deteriorated and significant support is needed. Strengthening the official reporting process is a focus for us at this time as it enables our Employee Relations and Organisational Development teams to support the individual or individuals who have experienced bullying, harassment or incivility, and work with all those involved to create a more respectful work environment.

Q: Can you confirm that several nurses have left the dialysis unit of the hospital within the last couple of months?

A: There have been four nurses who have left the dialysis department since October 2021.

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TNN also sought a response from a BPSU representative on this matter, Mr. Kevin Grant reply and stated “ This matter is being looked into it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”

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Story by TNN Reporter Stefano Ausenda