Most of the full-time nurses at Morris de Castro Clinic in Cruz Bay, above, have not reported for work since the end of August while they wait for action against a fellow employee, according to reports.
There were more questions than answers last week about what is going on behind the doors at the Morris F. de Castro Clinic.
Since the end of August, the Department of Health’s Cruz Bay clinic has reportedly been turning away patients hoping to get services formerly available at the facility.
When asked why, however, DOH officials remained mum last week, citing the department’s polity of not commenting on personnel matters.
While de Castro Clinic nurses also declined to comment, citing a pending case against a DOH employee, there is clearly something going on at the Cruz Bay health facility.
What is certain is that not one member of the full time permanent Registered Nurse (RN) staff has reported for duty since August 29. All of the RNs, who essentially ran the clinic for years with oversight from St. Thomas, are out on sick leave.
The action has been reported to be a protest over workplace conditions at the clinic which have been ignored by DOH for about three years, according to residents familiar with the issue.
The gap in services at Morris de Castro is being covered by officials who come over from St. Thomas once or more a week. Immunizations, for example, are now only available by appointment with a St. Thomas RN who works out of Morris de Castro once a week.
The entire Family Planning, Pre and Post-Natal and Women’s Health programs are also being run by one Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who is traveling from St. Thomas once a week.
Also worrisome to residents is the lack of Mental Health Care (MHC) at Morris de Castro. According to DOH regulations, a LPN must work under the guidance of a doctor or RN. An LPN from St. Thomas is currently running mental health care at the clinic, but since there are no RNs on duty, the act is in violation of DOH regulations.
And there is no public heath nursing at Morris de Castro as that position was terminated from DOH’s budget. The former MHC nurse Sally Browne only learned about the termination a day before she was due to return to work. She has filed a grievance with the department, because she was not given the required 30 days notice, and is waiting to hear from DOH officials.
This is not the first time Browne’s position has been wrongly terminated. DOH officials terminated her position last year as well, but Browne’s grievance that time resulted in the reinstatement of the position. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be for Browne this time around.
Talk about the happenings at Morris de Castro has been circulating across St. John for weeks, but the noise rose to a roar last week, as long-time Certified Nurse Midwife Francine Jacobson, who has been out on sick leave since August 29, was reportedly threatened with termination by DOH officials.
When news of Jacobson’s threatened termination spread, an online petition circulated via the website www.change.org. The petition was started by Briana Jacobson, Francine Jacobson’s daughter, on Wednesday night, October 5, and had garnered the signatures of 70 people by Thursday afternoon, October 6.
The petition is directed to the Department of Health and calls for the end to workplace violence at Morris de Castro Clinic.
“Workplace violence in the Morris De Castro Clinic in St. John, VI has been report [sic] for the past three years,” according to the petition. “Grievances via unions have been presented and either dismissed or overlooked. Nothing has been done by the VI Government to protect the current staff that is employed there and is now being turned around to victimize the employees that are presenting these issues.”
“We the undersigned, are concerned citizens who support Francine Jacobson and urge our leaders to act now to address the serious issues of the workplace violence and intimidation that is currently taking place at the Morris De Castro Clinic,” according to the petition.