Saturday 14 December, 2019

St Lucia's nurses anxious over health care sector uncertainty

Nurses Association President Alicia Baptiste

Nurses Association President Alicia Baptiste

St Lucia Nurses Association President Alicia Baptiste shot down reports that nurses were asked to resign and then reapply for employment at the Owen King European Union Hospital as “just talk”.

That said, nurses on the island do have concerns as the government gets set to roll out its plan for the country’s health sector.

These reports have been circulating for weeks now, purportedly to have emanated from government. However, no one could pinpoint exactly its source within government. The reports have been circulating among nurses and within healthcare facilities islandwide, reaching the desk of Loop News from the mouth of an employee of Victoria Hospital.

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When asked whether she has heard the reports and what her take on them is Baptiste said “that’s all talk. I don’t know, we have not been told that so we cannot divulge this information. We have been seeking information but information has not been forthcoming.”

Baptiste was one of several professionals within the health care system demanding that government provide information relating to the sector and on issues pertaining to nurses in particular.

Noting that her association represents about 400 workers at St. Jude Hospital, Victoria Hospital and the Owen King European Union Hospital, Baptiste said they have an obligation to provide its members with information pertaining to their future within the healthcare system, information it does not have at this time.

“In the absence of information, there is room for speculation which makes our members very anxious and rightfully so. As important stakeholders in health care, we need to be part of the process and we call on the powers that be to realize that the nurses are the backbone of healthcare and so our members need to know what is going on,” Baptiste said.

Nurses, Baptiste said, have many concerns, one of which has to do with their pensions. She wants Prime Minister Allen Chastanet to put in writing what he said about nurses’ pensions being preserved.

“We as nurses have been taught that documentation is key and if we have no documentation we cannot sell that to our members,” she said.

Baptiste also wants to know what happens to the payments made to the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) by nurses from 2003 onwards if they were to resign and reapply for work at the OKEU, which currently is the talk making the rounds at the hospitals.

“So even though the pension rights of a few are maintained, what happens to the majority of our nurses who pay NIC? So as an association we are very concerned and you can understand that our nurses at this present time are very anxious,” Baptiste said.

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