by Rishard Khan and Bavita Gopaulchan
President of the T&T Registered Nurses’ Association, Idi Stuart, yesterday warned that hospitals around the country could become ghost towns if Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh does not attend to nurses’ concerns.
He said health workers, who are on the frontlines of T&T’s fight against COVID-19, were upset at an announcement on Wednesday that millions of dollars will be spent on stipends for teachers to prepare students for the Secondary Entrance Assessment.
“We cannot understand after we would have been the front of the frontliners being used to tackle this COVID response; how our government would not see it fit to recognise tangibly the efforts of nurses and midwives in this COVID-19 response,” Stuart said
While insisting that there is no animosity between nurses and teachers, the health workers felt it was “total disrespect” and “the most hurtful thing that has happened to the nursing profession in quite a while”, and that money was found to offer extra compensation to workers in another area of the public sector.
Stuart said nurses and midwives have been holding back their frustrations for well over a year and are now at breaking point. He said the offer of the stipend to SEA teachers is evidence that there is money in the country, just not for nurses and midwives.
Stuart said the association will be visiting the Ministry of Health today to seek a meeting with Delaysingh to resolve the matter.
He warned that if their proposal is not accepted, members have already been placed on notice that from July 1: “We expect that a national holiday would be declared for all nurses and midwives in T&T.”
Stuart further warned that this will be “the beginning of something more” as there will be a strategic withdrawing of nurses who have been going beyond the call of duty in key areas.
“From Tuesday and every Tuesday going forward, we’ll be notifying nurses, withdraw your services in these particular areas because this is not your job spec,” he said.
Stuart said nurses have been performing multiple functions as regional health authorities have not been filling vacancies, even taking up roles as cleaners and lab attendants.
The association represents some 3,000 nurses but Stuart estimates that “all 10,000 nurses and midwives in T&T are going to be part of this action.”
He admitted the health system will be disrupted if nurses take action but said he “makes no apologies because we have stayed silent for too long.”
The association’s planned “holiday” will come just days after the country is scheduled to complete receiving almost 1,000 nationals from abroad.
The Government expect that this returning batch will include positive COVID-19 cases.