Normal operations at the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) will be severely hampered today if workers follow through with a plan to protest changes to the 2009 Act that governs the hospital.
A significant number of the nursing staff, orderlies and other critical groups plan to assemble at the hospital from about 8:30 a.m. today, and then march to the Parliament where the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (Amendment), Bill 2018 will be tabled for a first, second and third reading.
The workers agreed to the decision following a joint meeting on Monday with the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association and the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association. It also came a day after Molwyn Joseph, health minister, gave the assurance that workers will not be displaced as a result of the pending changes.
The changes to the 2009 Act will directly affect public servants who were seconded from the Holberton Hospital in 2009 to the MSJMC. It will also complete the transition of the MSJMC to the management of a Board.
Approximately 535 workers are employed at the hospital, and 189 of that number were seconded from Holberton. Both unions are of the view that the pending changes will place them at a disadvantage since the Bill, if passed, will conclude the period of secondment of public officers seconded to the service of the Board and for connected and incidental purposes.”
Karen Josiah, president of the nurse’s association, said that workers at the meeting were rather disturbed and worried about what is to come.
“We are asking for the minister to roll back the Bill. Because the Bill cannot go in its current form,” Josiah said.
Sandra Williams, general secretary of the ABPSA, said that they will also be directing certain queries to the Public Service Commission (PSC), the body in charge of hiring public officers.
“In the event that the Bill is passed in the state that it is in right now, what will happen? We will be appealing to the PSC to tell us what is going to happen to your workers,” Williams said.
In an interview with our newsroom on Sunday, Minister Joseph noted that the government had no intention to make nurses or anyone redundant at this time.
He pointed out that the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) was seeking to correct a problem that has existed for several years which was brought to his attention by the nurses.
It would appear that the workers at the hospital are not satisfied with this explanation. The minister also promised to provide more detailed information when the Bill is presented in Parliament today.