Less than 24 hours after a State of Emergency (SoE) was implemented to try and curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, questions are being asked as to what provisions are in place to accommodate healthcare workers who are on the frontline battling the pandemic.

Head of the T&T Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) Idi Stuart said following the announcement by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday, all regional health authorities had moved immediately to implement a series of human resource measures without consultation––some of which he said are illegal.

He claimed: “Some of the RHA’s are switching all shifts to 12 hours without any kind of negotiation or consultation.”

Admitting nursing personnel had reached out to the TTRNA for clarification, Stuart said this has been a long-standing battle which the TTRNA has been attempting to have settled and which remains before the Industrial Court.

He said: “It is not legal. At the South West Regional Health Authority, they have a contract which states their hours of work are eight hours a day or 40 hours per week.”

He said a What’sApp message was circulated to nursing staff on May 15–informing them of the extended hours effective immediately.

Another urgent issue to be addressed is the issue of transport.

Stuart said with many people needing public transport to get to and from work, it was imperative now that measures be put in place to ensure they are not affected.

He said: “Most RHA’s have a number of vehicles at their disposal or they can hire some of these maxi taxis to take home persons or to a closer point. Even before the SoE, the place becomes a ghost town by 7 pm in some places, and it would mean asking staff who may not get relief on time to stay back, and this will cause them to be in a mad rush to get home.”

He said the RHA’s can also look into providing temporary sleeping accommodation for nurses so they would not have to travel late at night.

Stuart argued: “Unfortunately, over the years, Government has allowed nurses’ hostels and dormitories to be completely demolished and flattened as is the case at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital which is now being used as a carpark.”

He added that the nurses’ quarters at the San Fernando General Hospital are derelict and abandoned, while the facility at the Sangre Grande Hospital has been taken over for other uses.

At the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope––Stuart said these quarters, which are being used by final year nursing students, have remained locked up since last year.

He called on the authorities to allow them to be used by nurses in the interim.