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Pay scale 'unfair'.

Byline: Rebecca Torr

BAHRAIN Nursing Society (BNS) yesterday labelled a nursing pay scale proposal as "unfair" and not according to nurses' demands.

It called on the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) to refrain from submitting the nursing cadre to Cabinet without considering BNS' opinion.

According to the new cadre, compiled by the Health Ministry and CSB, nurses will either be on a professional or a general track. More than 400 nurses with bachelor degrees will be put on a professional pay scale track.

Non-bachelor holders will be put on a general pay scale and will be raised up one grade. Both tracks offer nurses about a 15 per cent increase on their current pay scale. Nurses start at a basic wage of BD300 a month. The new cadre also covers increases to nurses' allowances, which are now BD40.

The new cadre will benefit 2,597 nursing staff, including 223 trained practical nurses (attendants), as well as another 600 nurses who work in primary health care.

BNS president Rula Al Saffar called for all nurses to be put on the professional cadre and those with degrees to be given extra allowances.

She claimed this call had been echoed by Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer earlier this year when questioned by MPs. She alleged that at that time he had requested for nursing to become a profession and for nurses to be entitled to allowances for risk, shift, call and overtime.

Nursing

"BNS want all nurses to be on the professional cadre to tell people that nursing is a profession," Ms Al Saffar told a Press conference held at the society, in Salmaniya, yesterday. She said it was unfair for nurses with a bachelor's degree to be put on the professional cadre while those with an experience of 10 or 20 years remained on the general cadre.

She said the ministry began the nursing bachelor programme in 1984 and at that time they only took few students at a time, so thousands of nurses never got the opportunity to obtain the qualification.

In many cases nurses who had been in the profession for years were more skilled and experienced than those with the degree, she added.

"We request this cadre does not go to the Cabinet. The only people it will benefit are the supervisors and those with degrees and not most of the nurses - this will bring resentment between the nurses."

Ms Al Saffar claimed the cadre to be submitted to Cabinet this month was not the draft the BNS, Health Ministry and CSB had previously discussed.

She presented to the Press a document of minutes taken by Health Ministry primary and public health care nursing services chief Seham Al Rashid on March 5 this year, during the last time the CSB, the BNS and Health Ministry met to discuss the cadre.

At the meeting it was agreed that subcommittees would discuss the nurses cadre and allowances and the BNS, CSB and ministry would reassemble at the end of March to discuss the draft proposal.

However, according to Ms Al Saffar the meeting never took place.

"We are requesting an investigation into what happened with the nursing cadre - we never met to discuss the final draft - why didn't they include the BNS?" she said.

Last month the BNS launched a campaign calling on officials to implement an adequate nursing cadre and increase the number of nurses working in the field.

Those participating in the campaign began wearing coloured ribbons.

A petition calling for a better cadre was also launched and will be presented to Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Further action will be planned if there is still no positive response.

All nurses and other wishing to support the campaign are invited to collect their badges and sign the petition at the BNS.

Ms Al Saffar said nurses were claiming that since wearing the badge they had been bullied by senior nurses and doctors to take them off or face the consequences. "We have nurses accepted to the bachelors programme, but because members are hanging ribbons they are not allowing them into the programme," she said.

"BNS is requesting the UN Development Programme to give scholarship to 10 nurses and they will decide who goes. Then we will have a contract with the Health Ministry to give them one to two year unpaid leave to get their degree."

Meanwhile, Ms Al Saffar said it had been agreed in 2004 that all nurses would go up by two grades, but hundreds were still waiting.

She said Bahrainis and expat nurses who had still not benefited from the two-grade increase to call the BNS on 17242233.

Ms Al Saffar claimed that unless salaries and allowances were significantly raised hospitals would be in crises.

Shortage

According to Ms Al Saffar Bahrain has 6,000 nurses, but is short by 9,000.

"Now there is one nurse for every 20,000 people but the WHO say there should be one nurse to every 5,000 people.

At night there is sometimes one nurse for 22 patients and there should be one nurse to every four patients. We have severe shortage."

She claimed nurses were working overtime and were not getting the pay they were entitled.

"Acting supervisors also need to be given the same allowance as supervisors."

She also called for a rotation of supervisor and nursing officer position to keep everyone up-to-date.

Ms Al Saffar said media reports had claimed that a group of nursing supervisors and principal nursing officers had formed a group that was calling on the Social Development Min-istry to allow them to take over the BNS.

The group was also allegedly telling nurses that if they supported them they wouldn't have to pay their membership fees.

"By law they can't drop the fees and these nurses are those who haven't paid their tuition for years."

BNS executive secretary Ebrahim Al Demastani was also present at the Press conference.

becky@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Aug 3, 2008
Words:1010
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