THE Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) said certain decisions being taken by management of the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC) are taking a toll on employees, and has called on Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence to intervene.
The union’s Region 10 Industrial Relations Officer, Maurice Butters, issued the call on Tuesday, pointing out that Lawrence has been written to on the matter, and should visit the hospital and meet with the aggrieved parties.
The most recent of the issues, Butters said, is the appointment of a junior nursing staff as matron from recommendation made by management to the Public Health Ministry.
Butters said that the union had written management requesting that the appointment be withheld until representatives from the two entities meet, but to no avail.
“Because when we look at the advertisement that was circulated and the qualification for the matron, we believe [that] it is watered-down to suit the management’s position pertaining to who they want to appoint. The position of a matron, based on the advertisement, says you can be a registered nurse or a midwife, but yet for lower positions you are asking for a diploma or a degree; it is not consistent, we feel that for a position of a matron the person must be a degree holder because she has to manage and supervise other staff, who are degree holders,” Butter said.
“We have written asking for a review of this operation, but to date we have not received a response from management.”
The union representative posited that such an appointment would be unfair to other nurses, who are more senior to Jones, both in qualification and years of service.
He claimed that the requirements were watered-down because Jones is management’s “favourite.”
However, LHC Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Farouk Riyasat, has rubbished Butter’s claims that the requirements were watered-down, since what was advertised for three weeks is consistent with the qualifications outlined by the Public Service Ministry. Also, the appointment was approved by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, Collette Adams.
“There were only two applicants; Sister George and Sister Jones and they were interviewed by members of the board and senior management and some persons from the HR (Human Resource) department. After that interview one person was selected, which was Jones and the Chairman of the board asked that we put her on three months’ probation and I did an appraisal, which was favourable and I forwarded that to the Ministry of Health, which made a decision… I am wondering why Mr. Butters didn’t raise these issues during the period that the position was advertised, why he didn’t raise it at that time, that the qualifications were watered-down….there was enough time for him to bring this up,” Dr Riyasat said.
The CEO revealed that Jones acted in the position for a year and the other applicant refused to act in the position. Jones also for years acted in the position when her predecessor went on leave and her Senior George was always asked to act, but she refused.
Riyasat also rubbished the claim that the management is dodging a meeting with the union, since there are meetings every month, the last being last Thursday, where all of these things were discussed.
ISSUE OF RETIREMENT, GRATUITY
Another burning issue which demands urgent attention is the mandatory requirement age of 60, but managerial staff members are retiring at their whims and fancies.
“The senior managers decide when they are going to retire; but the junior staff, they are retired by the senior managers,” Butters said, claiming that senior staff wastes no time in informing the junior staff months before their retirement of their last working day.
Many junior staff, he said are angered by this “unfair system”.
Being brought to the fore also was the issue of the female nurses employed at the complex being denied their six months gratuity payments when they go on maternity leave.
Though this resulted in the employees taking industrial action and was raised at many public forums, nothing has changed, the union said.
Most worrying is that this system only applies to LHC contractual employees.
Butters explained that when the nurses depart on their maternity leave, it is as if they are punished for getting pregnant, since their gratuity is being withheld.
The argument behind this is that gratuity is paid based on performance on the job, and since the nurses are absent during their leave, they cannot perform, and hence, they cannot be paid.
Despite they are absent for three months, the entire six months gratuity is taken away.
“Gratuity should be paid in lieu of pension…. a sick leave absenteeism cannot be deemed as absenteeism; it’s a right, you are given permission by way of a medical certificate to go on sick leave, maternal health is enshrined in the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Convention. There are conventions which cover women and give them the right to go on maternity leave.”
The aforementioned and many other issues, including nurses being sent to Kwakwani for three months to work; thus, separating them from their families and lack of control mechanisms on how monies are spent and contracts are awarded were highlighted by the trade unionist.
“We need to have some clear cut policies and guidelines on how things should be done; that hospital is being run on a Laissez-Faire arrangement. We need to have an intervention so that these matters can be put to rest, they have been going on for too long, we have been complaining bitterly about these things and all we are getting are promises and promises and nothing happens.”
Dr Riyasat said the nurses are sent to Kwakwani on a rotation basis since Kwakwani does not have enough human resource. He said it is within the best interest of the patients there that nurses are sent on a three-month rotation in which they are provided with accommodation, allowances, and transportation.
“As longs as they are in the system, they are rotated within the system and I have a correspondence, where I shared with Mr. Butters coming from the Ministry, which shows that persons have to rotate within the hospital…. Kwakwani does not produce enough technical personnel and professional nurses and doctors. What Mr. Butters want us to do really?” Dr Riyasat asked.
He also said that all staff members, both junior and senior retire at 60 years, but in cases where persons have a special skill; they are retained to train other persons. Those cases, he said, are taken to the board and the Ministry’s permission is sought to retain persons for a maximum of one year.