By Kadeem Joseph
The Minister of Health said workers at the Central Board of Health (CBH) will “likely” be working half days as the government seeks to “immediately” address issues that have been plaguing the employees.
On Monday, the CBH workers staged a protest in front of the lower All Saints Road premises that houses the department, citing poor working conditions at the deteriorating St John’s Health Centre building, a rat and termite infestation, unpaid back pay and poor treatment, among the major issues affecting them.
Minister Molwyn Joseph said the situation at the building, which has existed “for decades”, requires “urgent action”.
He said that the matter will be raised during today’s Cabinet meeting in order to get a more definitive response from the government.
“But, in the meanwhile, in talking to the workers, we’ve decided that some immediate remedial work can be done to address the issue of rats in the building because of course that is a health threat,” he added. “So, we are going to be handling that within days, not weeks.”
He explained that work to improve the St John’s Health Centre will be carried out during the afternoon hours.
Joseph said that the medium-term plan to resolve the poor working conditions the employees endure is to seek a building to rent within the city for one year.
In the long-term, however, the health minister said that plans are to advance the refurbishment of the old Ministry of Education premises on Church Street, as that building is more spacious and adequate for the workers.
“As it is now, the workers are too crowded … it’s an opportunity for us to get it right,” he added.
The Church Street building was gutted in 2018 and the CBH employees said little has been done to complete renovations.
Joseph said the government will retrofit the St John’s Health Centre to become a polyclinic in the hopes of relieving the Mount St John’s Medical Centre of nonurgent cases.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health said the issue of how chemicals are managed in the vector control department will also be addressed.
“I will be visiting that building tomorrow, because the practices there might not be of the highest standards in the way they handle chemicals,” he said.
Joseph said a ministry employee has already been tasked with presenting a report on the issues in the department as well as to suggest ways to remedy the issues.