Letters & Opinion

Public Sector Unions Target Government on Healthcare: Showdown Looming!

Image of Nurses undergoing training in the new dialysis equipment at Owen King-EU Hospital this week.

PRIME MINISTER Allen Chastanet was on the cusp of delivering the 2018/2019 budget address in March, when three public sector trade unions gave him an ultimatum of sorts – expect a showdown from us or fill us in with your plans for improving the country’s health care. Eight months later, the very same unions are (more or less) saying the very same things — but in an angrier tone.

At a press conference Tuesday the three unions — St. Lucia Medical and Dental Association, St. Lucia Nurses Association and Civil Service Association clearly have not ruled out the possibility of industrial action, as they once again called on government to treat the country’s health care situation with the utmost urgency.

“No longer can we remain these nightingales whilst the environments in which we work are deplorable, our staffing is inadequate,” said Alicia Baptiste, President of the Nurses Association.

Baptiste said that despite shortcomings at the various health facilities on the island, nurses are still expected to do the impossible — and with less.

“We have labored hard while other families celebrate birthdays, Christmas and other holidays. We continue to be committed, but should not be taken for granted,” she said.

Cyprian Montrope, President of the Civil Service Association, said his trade union had met with the government a few times to discuss the country’s health care situation, but the expected results have not been forthcoming. Therefore, he felt it necessary to engage collectively to send government a clear message: the need for government to place greater importance on healthcare.

In fact, he wants the government to move the current workers at St. Jude Hospital to a better place

“For us, the conclusion is clear: Those in charge of health care do not care,” said the CSA’s General Secretary Claude Paul at Tuesday’s press conference.

He referred to a report by the Ministry of Labour that he says highlighted numerous safety and health violations which should have forced the closure of any private institution stating that government was breaking the law of the land by continuing to ignore the recommendations of the officials of the Ministry of Labour.

Paul said his trade union is concerned about the transfer of public officers to the OKEU hospital and the preservation of the pensionable status and other benefits, as provided for in the Millennium Heights Medical Complex Act.

But, he said, no official word or announcement has been made by those in authority and persons are left to speculate about their future.

He also lamented the absence of meaningful consultation on the transition process, the financing mechanisms and the privatization of the hospital.

Government, Paul says, continues to ignore the trade unions’ calls for inclusion in this process while making secret deals with private investors.

Dr. Alphonsus St. Rose believes that urgent political solutions would have to be sought in order to resolve what he termed “this critical health crisis” the country is facing, adding that such a solution must require basic respect for humanity, human dignity and a true desire to do the right thing on behalf of the people.

“On behalf of our members and the deserving public, the SLMDA, once again, demands urgent action,” St. Rose said, adding that the government was trivializing the situation at Victoria Hospital and other health facilities.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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