Health authorities and union representatives appear to have averted a likely industrial dispute involving health workers in the south of the island.
Over the past years, employees at the St Jude Hospital have complained about poor working conditions and suitable payment for their services.
This ‘long-standing issue’ reached fever pitch about two weeks ago, when some staffers took to the media to air out their grievances. And only last week, the kitchen staff at the southern health institution staged a ‘sick out’, which resulted in patients not receiving their daily breakfast menu for a day.
On Monday, it is reported that staff members at the makeshift hospital were pleasantly surprised with news that the authorities had reached an amicable decision towards granting them full compensation for their services.
“We were able to make some real positive headway, in terms of addressing a number of outstanding issues,” declared Solace Myers, of the National Workers Union (NWU).
“What we were able to get relates to the negotiations and the salaries, so we’re about an $800 lump sum to be paid to the workers between this month and next month,” she said.
Citing the positive outcome of the negotiations, Myers explained that there was also “a couple of protocol documents and MOUs to be signed” to guide the way forward in terms of classification.
“The workers are very happy and the union is very pleased that we were able to come down and have this kind of open engagement with everybody,” she added.
Health Minister, Senator Mary Isaac said, the government too were equally satisfied with the discussions. “Since we came on board we have been hearing about reclassification …and that needed to be settled,” she said.
“We hear about the uniform allowance and all the allowances they are supposed to be getting and sometimes because of lack of funds and everything else, we put these things on the back burner and the workers really need those finances,” Issac explained.
Isaac added, “What they are asking for is not unreasonable and we have to acquiesce in spite of the fact that government revenue / finances are very low.”
Meanwhile, reports of a damaged X-ray machine at the St Jude Hospital has elicited growing public outcry for restoration of a ‘most important’ piece of medical equipment in the health services department.
MP for Vieux Fort South, Dr. Kenny Anthony has expressed his dissatisfaction with that development and voiced his concerns.
“The hospital currently does not have a functioning X-ray machine,” he declared. “There are complaints regarding the availability of medication, staff shortages and the conditions at the stadium have deteriorated to an unacceptable level.”
Dr. Anthony added, “The existing situation places additional pressure on the staff, disrupts the provision of services and in the end the public suffers.”
Senator Issac told the media that the matter is to be rectified, at the soonest.
In the meantime, says Isaac, patients can access treatment at alternate southern institutions, such as the Soufriere hospital, Medical Imaging, in Vieux Fort “and we have two (2) other facilities that they can go in case we need to get X-rays done.”