The nurses argue that while their contracts have not been renewed and/or they were not made permanent employees, they’re disappointed that retired nurses are still being hired.
Speaking to Saint Lucia News Online (SNO), one of the sessional workers, who chose to remain anonymous, said they were informed verbally of their dismissal during a general meeting last week, and with “no prior notice.”
The sessional staffers were reportedly told that last week was their final week of employment at the hospital.
When asked whether a contractual arrangement for employment was entered into with the government, which is the body in charge of hiring staff at the hospital, the nurse said that she had signed a contract but was not given a copy. As to whether that contract had stipulated the period for which she would be employed, she said no.
“We have loans to pay and it’s a whole bunch of us [who were sent home]” the nurse said.
St. Lucia News Online spoke with the Hospital’s Executive Director, Jeanette Hughes, who did not wish to “confirm or deny” the reports, stating that she would need to get the names and info of the nurses who were dismissed in order to confirm that they were being let go. She however went on to further explain the employment process of sessional or temporary nurses.
She said that while the hospital may make recommendations for the hiring and firing of workers, only the government has the final say as to who goes or stays.
As the word implies, Hughes said that temporary or sessional nurses are indeed employed on a short-term basis and with no guarantee that they will be made permanent at the end of their tenure; although she said that many of them are re-hired at the hospital based on need.
She said the Victoria Hospital is appreciative of sessional workers and always look to employ them, rather than take in green nurses.
“We encourage temporary workers, we encourage volunteers,” she said, while stating that their performance is normally monitored from which appraisals are written and at times used for future recommendation to the government for re-employment.
“When there is an opening and we know you have been working very hard, we can submit the paper work on your behalf and we support the recommendation and send it to our PS [permanent secretary],” she said.
Describing the work of sessional nurses as “beneficial,” Hughes said it is sometimes impossible to make every worker permanent after their temporary tenure.
She reiterated that workers could be called back to work as the need arises.
“It’s not a situation where we just throw anybody out. Maybe the person tenure came to an end,” she said in response to questions of the dismissals.
“In these hard times people would have hoped [to be made permanent]… Sometimes we can help and sometimes we cannot help. We don’t have a huge turnover of permanent workers and we are not expanding our structure yet,” she said to SNO.
She was adamant that everyone employed at the hospital would know the conditions under which they were employed. According to her, temporary workers should be informed of when their contract starts and ends.
“Every worker knows their tenure….I don’t understand why they would be surprised,” she said. She said that in the event there is a vacancy, there is a process that needs to be followed for their employment.
However, despite the explanation given by the director, a medical official believes the nurses are being dismissed in the wrong way.
“They need to tell the truth,” the source said. “The nurses were aware that it was sessional appointments and can come to an end sometime, but it is the way it is done and the beating around the bush with the livelihoods of nurses.
“Some of these young nurses were ready to go for the opportunity in Trinidad, but were discouraged by the president of the Nurses Association, saying we did not have enough nurses, yet they are being sent away. The quality of care is bound to be compromise. And who suffers? It is the persons in the lower income bracket whereby our leaders can take a plane out of St. Lucia. If things are so bad why did they invent a post for a retired nurse … that money could have given two young nurses permanent employment.”
SNO is still seeking to get a response from the health ministry on the matter.