(SNO) –The Saint Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA) is lamenting the situation at health facilities on the island and has called on the minister of health and senior officials of the ministry to take immediate steps to address the matters.
In a statement, general secretary of the organization, Claude Paul, said it is shameful the St. Jude’s Hospital matter remains unresolved, the Victoria Hospital is falling apart, and that the usual voices have gone quiet on the privatization of the OKEU while negotiations are continuing in the background.
“It is both shameful and disgraceful that after nearly 10years, the situation with St. Jude’s remains unresolved while successive administrations level blame at each other,” Paul said.
He added that the use of the George Odlum Stadium as a temporary hospital is no longer acceptable, saying “the facility has been deemed unfit for this purpose and the quality of health care services continue to deteriorate”.
“A report from the Ministry of Labour has highlighted numerous occupational safety and health violations which would have forced the closure of any private institution,” Paul said. “The government is therefore breaking the law of the land and continues to ignore the recommendation of the officials of the Ministry of Labour. More importantly though, there is no empathy for the doctors, nurses and support staff who must work in those torrid conditions.”
In terms of the Victoria Hospital, Paul said the situation is equally challenging for members of the CSA.
“At the last count there were over 300 instances of health and safety violations and of course no action has been taken because of the plans to transition to the OKEU,” he stated. “Victoria Hospital is falling apart while we have a brand new hospital virtually next door and which remains unoccupied for the most part. Our understanding is that the maintenance cost of running VH is extremely high and government is forced to take draconian measures such as reducing the number of sessional nurses. How much longer must we wait before something is done to bring relief to the staff and patients who have to endure those conditions day after day?”
The CSA boss also expressed concerned over the air quality at the Gros Islet Poly Clinic.
“The situation was allowed to escalate into a crisis before some hurried action was taken to address it over the weekend,” Paul said. “The conclusion is clear. Those in charge of health care do not care.”
On the OKEU Hospital, Paul said the organization recognises that while the usual voices have gone quiet, negotiations are continuing in the background.
“The Board has been appointed and yet there are no consultations with the trade unions on the way forward,” he stated. “The inclusion of the NWU on the Board is not a substitute for proper and meaningful dialogue with the unions and staff associations who are the legitimate representatives of the doctors, nurses and other support staff.”
Paul said his organization remains concerned about the following:
• The transfer or secondment of public officers to the OKEU and the preservation of the pensionable status and other benefits as provided for in the Millennium Height Medical Complex Act. No official word or announcement has been made by those in authority and persons are left to speculate about their future.
• The absence of meaningful consultation of the transition process, the financing mechanisms and the privatization of our hospital. Government continues to ignore our calls for inclusion in this process while making secret deals with private investors. We demand greater transparency in this very important public matter.
He said the organization will continue to pay close attention to the developments with OKEU and will not tolerate any attempt to use this process to marginalise or victimise workers.
“We will use every legitimate means possible to defend the rights of our members and all other workers in the country,” he remarked.
Paul is now urging the government to preserve the welfare of its members and health workers, to “put people before profit” and rejects the notion of privatising health care in Saint Lucia.