PRESS RELEASE – The Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations has initiated dialog with Staff Representatives of worker of the three institutions forming the Millennium Heights Medical Complex (MHMC).
The MHMC Act No. 1 of 2015 brings Turning Point Rehabilitation Centre, National Mental Wellness Centre and Victoria Hospital which continues as Owen King EU Hospital under one management structure headed by a Board of Directors.
Health Officials made presentations to representatives from the National Workers Union (NWU) and Civil Service Association (CSA) on the plan of action to realize the objectives of the MHMC Act where staff of the various institutions will come under one management structure.
Commissioning Director for the MHMC, Dwight Calixte, noted the amicable nature of the meetings as health official sort input from staff representatives as the process of transitioning staff to the MHMC gets on the way.
“We had discussion over the elements of that act that would affect their particular workers and to update them on precisely where we are in the entire process. So as part of the process going forward we’re looking at engaging all of those representatives…to ensure that the process of dialog starts and it’s a collaborative process to the transitioning of our persons from one entity into the Millennium Heights Medical Complex.”
Calixte indicated that the main area of concern for the unions was ensuring the continuity of services of staff during this transitioning process.
“The Act in itself makes specific reference to how persons are going to go across. So, for now, it is how we are going to manage them. How we are going to engage the workers as they move into the new entity. What will be the jurisdiction of the Board of Directors of the institution over the existing employees from the three institutions and more so, how do we engage the persons who are outside the public service presently and how then do we look at continuity of employment under the new structure. These were the main areas of concern.”
Secretary General of the NWU, George Goddard Jr., welcomed the engagement and dialog and express optimism that once the engagement continues it can ultimately lead to the successful transitioning of staff to the MHMC.
“Very important from the stand point that we represent some of the staff and the staff need to believe, need to understand, need to know, that they are in-fact part of the process and allot is expected of them and they will be getting the full cooperation of the authorities in the process of transitioning. So this is a message we can carry to the staff, off-course there are a number of concerns.”
Among the concerns Goddard highlighted was security of tenure of staff, given that they will be under the management structure of a Board of Directors.
“These and other issues are very critical and we hope to iron them out as time goes by. But once these and other issues can be addressed as well, we think that this whole issue of engagement is going to serve us very well.”
He added that staff are generally excited about the move not just as employees of the various health institutions but also as citizens of Saint Lucia, to what is anticipated to be a new level or benchmark in the provision of health services. “At the same time there are apprehensions as you will understand relating again to their employment tenure and things like that.”
Similar sentiments we expressed by the General Secretary of the Civil Service Association, Wilfred Pierre as he commended the Ministry of Health for initiating dialog aimed at addressing staff concerns.
“We had a presentation which we found was very exciting and we looked at some of the key issues and complaints which the staff had as to what are the procedures and what is the system in place in terms of transitioning them from the old facility into the new facility. So we are very happy for what happened today and we want to see the process continue because as you know we really want as an initiative of the CSA to really partner with government and in that sense partner with the Ministry of Health in order that we can deliver a health system and programmes and initiatives to the general public.”
The Ministry of Heath via the Commissioning Team for the MHMC plan to engage the other staff representatives, including the St. Lucia Nurses Association, as well as the direct engagement of staff to provide timely and relevant information, listen and respond to staff concerns, allay fears and reach consensus through open dialog.