Board of Health staff say their building is “unhealthy”

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By Kadeem Joseph

Government employees who report to the St John’s Health Centre are threatening to only work half days if several grievances are not addressed.

On Monday the “frustrated” workers staged a placard protest in front of the lower All Saint’s Road building, with poor working conditions, owed overtime and back pay, waterlogged grounds, and bad treatment of workers among the main sources of distress.

The employees bemoaned the deteriorating conditions of the building, pointing to leaking which has led to periodic flooding, an infestation of termites and rats, and the availability of only one bathroom on the first floor of the building which has to be flushed using bottles and buckets of water.

“Both man and woman have to use the same bathroom. The same thing in vector control and that is not right,” one employee said.

Another employee explained that health officials had promised a move to a Church Street building which formerly housed the Ministry of Education but have been slow to make good on the commitment.

“We are still waiting. They gutted it – and nothing has happened,” she said.

The health ministry workers are suggesting that officials renovate the All Saints Road building using the department’s employees.

“If they don’t have the money, we have a maintenance unit. We are fixing everything, including clinics. So, if we get Public Works and our team, we can fix the problem with the building,” one employee advised.

The Health Centre presently houses a government dental office and the Central Board of Health (CBH).

Vaccinations and treatment of patients by nurses in the building ceased last year and the management team for the country’s nurses was also moved from the building.

Meanwhile, vector control workers are calling for more regularity to the payment of an “incentive for abnormal conditions” that would cover their exposure to risks during inspections.

“Sometimes you have to deal with s**t… you open containers and what you meeting is s**t when we go out to look at mosquito breeding,” one woman explained as other employees nodded in agreement.

She alleged while some of the vector control workers have received the incentive “on and off,” others have never received the promised money.

“With all the dengue it’s more risk. They just need to look at the workers better,” another worker added. “Those in the offices are not doing the dirty work. It’s like if CBH doesn’t matter to them.”

Workers are also demanding monies owed for overtime and back pay. They said, while a fraction of the money was paid last year, they are still waiting for the government to pay the balance.

Meantime, drivers at the department are calling for better vehicles.

They told OBSERVER that most of the vehicles being used “were fabricated” from “condemned” vehicles and are over 20 years old.

“The vehicle an dem nuh inna nutten. All ole vehicle roun yah,” one driver added. “The worker an dem a complain.” 

The disgruntled employees said that they are “tired” of writing letters to their superiors in the hopes of having their concerns addressed.

More than 100 people work at the CBH.

Attempts to reach Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph were unsuccessful. Calls to representatives of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, which represents several of the workers, were also unanswered.

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