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Healthcare workers ordered to get to work; nurses furious

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

The Ministry of Health has tossed out a policy that only required healthcare workers who volunteered to be a part of the COVID-19 response team to serve on the frontline and is now ordering all healthcare and ancillary support staff to report to work or face the consequences.

In a Minute Paper, dated August 11, 2020, Acting Permanent Secretary Prenell King-Rolle said, "With the exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, a large number of employees have been exposed and are currently in quarantine. Hence, these valuable employees cannot be restored for the next 7 to 21 days."

Nurses, who have complained about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and the high number of covid-19 cases in some public healthcare facilities like Sandilands and PMH, are furious over this policy change.

However, King-Rolle warned, "all persons employed with the public service who are designated as essential workers by the Permanent Secretary are to report to their place of work".

According to King-Rolle, when Dr. Duane Sands was Minister of Health, employees were advised that only persons who were willing to serve on the frontline of the fight against the virus were encouraged to volunteer. However, she said the new Emergency Order "supercedes the unwritten, informal position verbalized by the former Minister of Health regarding volunteering to work."

She added, "Many more COVID-19 patients have become seriously ill and some 35 of them are now hospitalized."

Therefore, the number of people who volunteered during the first wave of the coronavirus is not sufficient to cover all areas of the public health system and to manage the health crisis.

She reminded healthcare workers that to date the government has not laid off or terminated staff or reduced their benefits. However, the government does not intend to "maintain the payroll for a complement of staff while paying overtime to compensate for a staff shortage."

As of Tuesday, 989 people were infected with the virus. 856 cases are active.

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