Dec 02, 2020 Letters
I read of the ‘two-week bonus pay’ for all healthcare workers and my first thought was that there is some cause for Christmas cheer by those brave Guyanese medical soldiers facing the frontlines daily. But because this was coming from Guyanese political circles, commonsense prompted the wisdom of looking a little deeper. What I came up with is that if this is the PPP government’s idea of a risk allowance, then another is needed for the extra stresses imposed.
Editor, on this two-week bonus pay as some sort of ‘risk allowance’, I thought that the PPP powers, with the Hon. Minister of Health overseeing the national sick ward, Guyanese were in capable medical hands. I gave the Hon. Minister the benefit of the doubt, when I heard of ‘process’ and intent to recognize the contributions of frontline healthcare workers. My position and recommendations were threefold: 1) define frontline well – which was more than well done; 2) make amount retroactive; and 3) let it be meaningful.
When I contemplate the last two suggestions, I arrive at this point: the second (if used) makes the third meaningless, an insult through the mean. In this instance, ‘mean’ has the usual Guyanese interpretation (stinginess) attached to money and generosity. As I got to the bottom of this two-week bonus pay development, I regret having to say that, given what his people came up with and for which he is responsible, the Hon. Minister of Public Health (is there any other kind?) failed rather embarrassingly. On this, the medical minister sickened rather than cared and healed; on this, Dr. Frank Anthony proved to be no Hippocratic Marc Antony, rallying the troops but a practitioner committing more to the poor ward, I say this, because two-week’ pay is less of the soothing, and more of the sinking. In sum, Guyanese frontline public health workers were treated to the less than decent from this indecency and indignity of, take it or leave it and unilateral dispensation. Health workers succumb to this terminal condition.
For when two weeks bonus pay is sifted through, this is what it comes to in hard numbers, the significance of related spending power. I take a guess and assume that nurses earn $100,000 a month. Thus, that two-week bonus pay as a risk allowance equates to a one-time check of $50,000. It looks reasonable, even attractive, until there is consideration that the pandemic came in March (with unknown dangers and much ignorance); that it is now December (with more known, but perils still many and extremely high) and that from March to December encircles a 10-month span of time. So, when that $50,000 bonus is reduced to a monthly figure, it relays that healthcare workers are receiving in a lump sum approximately $5,000. When that is further broken down, it is no more than $1,000 weekly (after taxes). Now I may have erred on the gross pay, but even if the pay is doubled, then that is $2,000 weekly for a risk allowance. Better than nothing, yes but not a risk allowance of depth, all dangers considered.
Editor, this cannot be how we care for our frontline healthcare workers. Whatever the number, that risk allowance will barely manage to pay the minibus fare for our healthcare people, if they will be accepted or buy a half tank gasoline to take forth and back from the frontline pandemic wars or a ‘Chinee’ food (the special) from a local restaurant. Surely, we can do better than this, be more magnanimous than this in this time of great uncertainty and great life-threatening risks. We are spending on mega projects. We are borrowing money from everyone who will lend (and they all want to, since we are the best credit around). We are tabling any number of visions and propositions – some good, others unmentionable – and here we are unable to look out for those looking out for us and looking over us in our moment of great vulnerability and need.
It does not say much of our chief physician, Dr. Frank Anthony, who I thought was more of a Dr. Kildare. It says worse of Dr. Ali, the President, who speaks well of being President for every emergency. Where are you, Mr. President? How about you, Mr. Minister? I know we can do better than this one.
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