The state agency tasked with bringing about relief to suffering businesses and residents on the south coast says the ongoing sewage crisis is taking a mental toll on its workers.
The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) today revealed that while the employees have been working “almost 24-hours per day since October last year” to bring about some relief to those who have been affected, they, too have been suffering psychologically.
As such, General Manager Keithroy Halliday said the BWA was working closely with the Ministry of Health in an effort to give BWA staff the opportunity to “vent” and undergo more regular health checks.
“The staff too are affected by it day by day, if not on a hour by hour basis,” Halliday told today’s quarterly meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
He explained that BWA workers were often feeling embarrassed, with some of them experiencing “possible emotional issues”.
“I would really like to take a minute to recognize our staff, the BWA staff, in a very significant way. They have worked tirelessly really to do whatever is required around the clock and they themselves are humans and may not respond in the best way because they are tired and they are also frustrated,” Halliday said.
“They are also very embarrassed by this entire episode, and we have had to actually look at counselling because we need them to understand that it is not their fault, and that we will continue to do what we call a national duty to get to the bottom of this. But I can tell you I had a quick retreat recently to sort of pull some of the senior guys together [because] . . . it is very difficult sometimes for them to walk the streets with the brand [company logo] being exposed and the last thing we told them is, ‘don’t hide it, defend it,’ because we want them to be able to stand tall and be able to face the public and explain everything that is happening.”
Halliday added that the situation could become “a little overwhelming” for the line staff especially, given the limited resources with which they have to work.
Suggesting that a lot of the pressure facing the BWA staff members would have come from the public and that the situation was worse months ago, Halliday said the public was now “a little more understanding”.
“The Ministry of Health is working with us to make sure we have the right guidance, the right counselling and the right support in place. We are trying to make sure that from a health and safety standpoint they are properly equipped as well,” said Halliday.
“And when I say counselling I don’t want to dramatize to suggest that our staff are all mentally ill. It is nothing like that. It is far from that. It is just a matter of making sure that we extend the support system to let them know there are times you need to sit down and vent and let it out and we want to make sure it is done in a structured way. We want to make sure the right type of support is there,” he explained.
So far, the popular restaurant Chicken Barn in Worthing Christ Church has closed after losing the battle against the raw sewage water flooding its compound.