Nurses welcome special $400M payout

— but suggest a wide group of health workers benefit

SEVERAL nurses have welcomed the special $400 million for frontline health workers but are of the view that a wide group of health workers should benefit from the allocated sum and not just those who dealt directly with COVID-19 patients.

The nurses at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), who spoke with the Department of Public Information (DPI), pointed out that every health worker at the institution, came into contact with the deadly COVID-19 virus through working in the health system.

La Toya Whitehead

On Thursday last, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, announced that an amount of $400 million had been set aside for a special 2021 payout to frontline workers “who have continued to face extenuating circumstances in the daily discharge of their duties”.

The amount which would be paid out per health worker is not yet known but Dr. Singh had announced that the details would be announced shortly.

Suana Hyman, a staff nurse/midwife attached to the GPHC Maternity Section said that working during the pandemic posed significant challenges for health workers and noted that the payout would be beneficial for them.

“It been tough for most of us because it has put a strain on the healthcare system; we’re working longer hours with shorter staffage … we’re under a lot of pressure because a lot of the nurses would have migrated and so forth,” she said.

Taleba Wilson

In this light, Hyman is of the view that a wide group of health workers should be catered for, as they all would have been exposed to the virus in some way or the other.

Teleba Wilson, a registered nurse attached to GPHC Maternity Unit, Postanesthesia Care Unit, shared similar sentiments.

She was unclear whether the payout will be made only to health workers at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara but thinks a wide group of health workers should be included.

“Everyone are frontline workers because even though I am not working at Liliendaal, I too deal with COVID patients on a regular basis so if it includes everyone … it could help,” she said.

Staff nurse/midwife, Venessa Jerome, who is attached to the GPHC Pre-natal Unit, related that the pandemic has posed significant financial challenges to many, and among them are health workers.

She highlighted that health workers face discrimination while working throughout the crisis, especially when using public transportation. This has led her to resorting to taxis to escape discrimination from members of the public.

For La Toya Whitehead, a nurse at the GPHC Maternity Block, being a health worker during the pandemic posed a number of challenges to her.

She related that, notably, she had to employ a babysitter as school was closed. Whitehead also related that she too has had to deal with discrimination from the public.

“Sometimes you go to catch transportation and as soon as they see the white and they see the scrub they scoot down, they scringe up their face,” she said.

Jevita Pearson, a nursing assistant/midwife attached to the GPHC Maternity COVID-19 Isolation Unit has been working in that unit from the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She noted that working throughout the pandemic has affected her mental health.

“It takes a toll mentally on you, especially when patients are still not adhering to the rules that we would put in place to try to prevent them from being in contact with relatives. Some of them want to take self-discharge because they don’t believe and that could put your family at risk so it’s hard but we still continue every day to try,” she said.

Given that the sum to be allocated per health worker has not been announced, Pearson explained that, until that happens, she would not be able to pronounce on how she would use the grant. However, she thinks, if possible, a vacation would be appropriate to help with her mental health.


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