Sep 25, 2020 News
Nurses at the West Demerara Regional Hospital have joined in protest action for risk allowance, adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and for their pay to be remitted on time.
The nurses stood with placards in the vicinity of the West Demerara Regional Hospital yesterday, some 12 hours after health workers at the Mackenzie Hospital in Linden hosted a similar protest exercise over the same issues.
“We are working straight 12-hour shifts but we are not getting any extra money. We work in a hospital so we are exposed to all kinds of dangers especially during COVID-19 pandemic but with no risk allowance,” a male nurse explained.
As it relates to their salaries and the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the nurses said that their last pay package was released 31 days ago.
“We have not been paid for this month as yet, there is no risk allowance and there is barely enough PPEs for us to protect ourselves- we are given three masks to wear and reuse them in the week which is dangerous especially with the virus spreading,” a female nurse stated.
She noted too that as a frontline health worker, without risks benefits and adequate PPEs, she feels absolutely undervalued.
“It’s as though we don’t matter, I haven’t heard about any provision for us to get any allowance and I know some nurses at the Georgetown Hospital who are getting their allowances. We feel it is unfair to other frontline health workers who are risking their lives to care for the nation’s sick,” she added.
Meanwhile, Dawn Gardner, Second Vice President of Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) who was also present at the picketing exercise yesterday, told Kaieteur News that the union is support of calls for risk allowances to be paid to not just nurses but health care workers across the board.
“The maids and orderly all risk their lives every day to ensure that the hospitals and other health care facilities are run smoothly why should they not benefit from the risk package?”she asserted.
Additionally, Gardener said that the new administration is yet to engage the union on the issue risk allowance and pay increase for nurses and other public servants.
“I personally believe that it is disrespectful to the essential workforce and other public service workers because if the government promises an increase then we hold them liable to their work, she said.
Nurses attached to the Linden Hospital Complex in Region 10 staged a similar protest on Wednesday; calling on the Regional Health authorities to look into issues regarding risk allowance, security breaches, salaries, and PPEs.
Meanwhile, in response to the protests, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony noted $150 million has been included in Budget 2020 for frontline health workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We recognise that extra efforts that health workers are putting in and, in this budget, we have allocated $150 million for risk allowance.
Unfortunately, the budget is not passed as yet. It is scheduled to be passed on Friday. As soon as we get that money, we will be able to give nurses and other [categories] of frontline workers that risk allowance that we promised,” he said.
“One of the first things we did as a Government was to ensure that our nurses … as with other frontline health workers… to get PPEs [personal protective equipment] so that in this pandemic, they can remain protected,” Dr. Anthony said.
The Minister added that there was no need to protest for provisions that were already in the pipeline.
Instead, he appealed to them to use the opportunity to engage their respective Regional Health Authorities, after which they could consult the Ministry of Health.
“We are here. We want to resolve issues and I don’t think that these issues ought to be resolved on the streets. It can easily be resolved by sitting down and letting us understand what challenges they have, if any. I hope that in [the] future, if nurses have any grievances, they would employ the ‘open-door policy’ that we have at the Ministry of Health,” the Minister said.
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