Health Minister accused of disrespecting workers

Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph (OBSERVER media photo)

The fight for improved working conditions at the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital has reached its boiling point with the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) accusing the health minister of disrespecting the workers by ignoring their plight.

The union, which represents the interest of established workers at the mental hospital, have argued that since they started striking over a week ago, they have received no word from Molywn Joseph, the minister of health.

The ABPSA has also threatened to seek the intervention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to inform them of the “filthy conditions” over 100 staff members are forced to work in to provide care for 119 patients.

Joan Peters, president of theABPAsaid yesterday: “The minister of health has not met with the union orthe workers. The prime minister came, he did a little intervention … but the minister of health has refused to do anything about the situation.

“As the president of the association, I am very disappointed where that is concerned. I am advising the workers to remain outside until we get what we want,” Peters said.

The union official acknowledged the fact that the government has paid some workers overdue allowances and had delivered a washing machine, fans and other equipment to the facility on Simon Bolivar main road.

She, however, outlined that the bathrooms at Clarevue are still filthy, sewage water continues to run throughout the compound and cleaners and the nursing staff are yet to receive the basic items needed to maintain patients’ hygiene.

A member of the nursing staff told this reporter last week that at one point they had only one bar of soap for 42 females.

The maintenance staff is also unable to repair leaking roofs, and broken septic tanks because they do not have the right materials. “A lot of people think we are out there for the money but it is more than money. The filthiness at Clarevue is just untenable. Maybe we will have to write to the WHO and ask them for their intervention,” Peters remarked.

While established workers continue to withhold their labour, 12 staff nurses and a number of non-established workers are handling the day-to-day affairs at the hospital.

The registered nurses are responsible for treating and providing medication for the patients, while nursing aids are employed to ensure that the patients are practising proper hygiene. For over a week, the 12 registered nurses have been forced to assume some of those responsibilities.

Last week the nurses gave government 30 days to address the deplorable conditions and if it fails to do so, they will join their colleagues in protest.

On Sunday, Karen Josiah, head of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association declared the entire nursing body will be called to protest.

Leading officials at the institution have remained silent on the matter.

Meanwhile, OBSERVER media has made several unsuccessful attempts to set-up a meeting with minister Joseph to discuss this and other matters. Meetings were set-up but were subsequently cancelled due to the minister’s schedule.

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