President of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) Idi Stuart.

President of the National Nursing Association Idi Stuart is once again appealing to the Tobago Regional Health Authority’s (TRHA) officials for a meeting to iron out working arrangements for registered nurses hired to serve during the pandemic.

The nurses, hired for six months originally, have been on the job for more than one year, without benefits like their nursing counterparts, and are not paid sick and maternity leave, Stuart said.

Stuart said there might be a mass exodus of nurses nationally as the RHA’s do not treat nurses properly.

“ The Tobago situation is very concerning as those nurses are not entitled to any support whatsoever, and that is in breach of a number of the laws in Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said calls to the TRHA for a meeting on the nurse’s situation left the association sore as the authority agreed to only one meeting before last year’s general elections.

He said the association wants specific contract terms for the nurses and feels the TRHA can do more under the existing arrangement.

“We told the TRHA officials that it is untenable that nursing personnel are considered temporary employees and given six months and one year contract. That is beginning to be a norm now in Trinidad and Tobago,” Stuart told Guardian Media.

He added:” While they continue to build permanent hospitals in Roxborough, Arima, Point Fortin, Couva Children Hospital, the Government is refusing to make nurses permanent.”

He said that the TRHA already met its quota to hire nurses set by the government. However, he said he wondered why the quote remains, although more hospitals and health centres were built.

“ What will happen at the Roxborough Hospital? Can the existing nurse quota work effectively in that situation so that already burnt out nurses are forced to work more?”

Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine commented on the situation at yesterday’s Tobago health update media briefing.

“ At the TRHA, there is really no vacancy, and so those persons who were hired specifically to treat with the situation we are currently in.”

owever, she did not rule out hiring the nurses at the end of the pandemic. She also did not comment on whether the temporary workers’ contracts can be adjusted.

Meanwhile, two affected nurses, who spoke with Guardian Media on the condition that their identities not be revealed, said they are afraid to call in sick as they will lose more than $500 daily from their salaries.

“ We are grateful we have jobs. We understand the situation. However, the authorities must be fair to us too. We work just as hard and alongside nurses in all departments. Why are we treated so badly?”

As of yesterday, there are 62 active COVID positive cases in Tobago. It’s the largest number of active cases since the pandemic began last year. All COVID-positive patients are housed at a state-sponsored facility.