By Orville Williams
Staff at the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital have become increasingly disgruntled with the perceived lack of action from the Ministry of Health to resolve several issues affecting them.
This discontent is certainly not new, considering many of the workers only recently returned to work after protesting the situation for more than four weeks.
They maintain that, along with being collectively owed more than EC$1 million in overtime and risk allowance, the infrastructure at the country’s lone psychiatric hospital is in a deplorable state and it is shameful that they are being expected to work as normal in those conditions.
Those members of staff who participated in the protest action returned to work last week, with the expectation that a meeting was to take place between the Health Ministry and the union representing them – the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) – to determine the best way forward for all parties.
However, based on word from ABPSA President Joan Peters, that meeting did not take place.
“The Minister [of Health Molwyn Joseph] told us that we would have another meeting on the 15th, but when I checked, I realised that the 15th was falling on a Wednesday – a Cabinet meeting day – so I [figured] it would not have happened.
“I called [earlier] on Monday to find out when this meeting would [take place], I didn’t get any answer. I called again this morning [but was told] the Minister is not in his office as yet and the Permanent Secretary is busy. I left a message, but I haven’t gotten any word as yet,” Peters told Observer.
The labour relations veteran said the workers were not being unreasonable, despite the fact some of them have been owed money for nearly seven years, noting that the rise in inflation and other social pressures have made the circumstances dire.
What is adding to their displeasure, she said, is the failure of those in charge to live up to the simple promises made.
“[The Ministry of Health] said to give them an opportunity to do what they [need to do] and that’s why I [instructed] the workers to go back to work, so that they can’t say we are out there waiting on them.
“The workers have become agitated now, because nothing has been done since the last meeting that we had on the 25th or so of May,” she lamented.
Some of the workers started to receive the monies owed to them last month, and according to ministry officials, the disbursements would continue until everyone is paid in full. But with so much owed for so long, many of the staff are not confident their monies will be forthcoming anytime soon.
That has left a bitter taste in their mouths, according to sources, with an atmosphere of despair and disappointment clouding the facility.
“I don’t know what is going on … it is so frustrating for persons that they’re really not interested anymore,” Clarevue’s union representative Ava Bowen simply said.
Efforts to reach health officials for comment proved futile up to press time.