Leader of the Opposition Paul Lewis on Wednesday called for the government to take urgent action to resolve Montserrat’s healthcare crisis.
Speaking in a recorded statement on ZJB Radio Montserrat, Lewis said “access to first-class healthcare is a fundamental right deserving of all Citizens and Residents of Montserrat. There is no question, nor debate to be had about this. At this present juncture, above and beyond all else, healthcare should be seen as the top priority for all the people of Montserrat.”
Lewis pointed out that between 2019 to 2022, the island lost 15 to 20 nurses. “These nurses decided to leave our shores as they were dissatisfied with the unchanging daunting conditions that the present nurses who chose to remain protested about just a few weeks ago.”
Nurses and other healthcare workers protested their working conditions outside the Glendon Hospital last month. While they were able to meet with health officials after the protest, they were asked to wait at least three months for the Ministry of Health to resolve the issues raised.
Waiting, Lewis said, was impacting the morale of the nurses.
“Some of these issues yet to be addressed include:
- Session overtime payments, which after taxes the Nurses receive $105 for a session lasting eight hours. Nurses are usually asked to do these sessions on their off days or nights as the case may be.
- Night duty allowances, uniform allowance and anomalies in salaries – leaving nurses to take home salaries at the bottom or very close to the bottom of the salary scale. These are just the case of some nurses and are among issues to be addressed by the government.
“To put some of this into further perspective; if a minimum wage of $12 per hour is approved by the government now or in the future with no adequate adjustments to nurses’ salaries, then some of our nurse’s salaries will be below that minimum wage. This clearly is an unsatisfying situation that no nurse would be happy with, and by extension no worker would ever be happy earning a salary that is below minimum wage.
“All workers within Government within salary scales R51 to R43 are earning salaries below a minimum wage of $12 per hour should that rate be approved by government. This is beyond inhumane.
“In other words, if you are currently earning a monthly salary of $2080 or less then if the minimum wage is set at $12 an hour, you will be earning below minimum wage. Approximately 162 government workers will be affected and that includes some of our nurses and other healthcare workers.
“Should the Government seek to resolve this issue before implementing a $12 an hour minimum wage, the government will need to budget EC$569,495 or EC$743,095 if the minimum wage is set to $12.50.
“In spite of their plight, our nurses and other Healthcare workers still committed their services to our people, with much needed help from the Cuban contingent, until their recent untimely departure.
“Montserrat’s present compliment of approximately 25 nurses, including hospital and district nurses, represents a bare skeleton staffing arrangement of nurses here to service our healthcare delivery needs,” the Opposition Leader noted.
Lewis pointed out that recently seven of the 25 nurses and one geriatric aid had to be isolated due to COVID-19-related issues, with another four nurses on annual leave. Only 20 nurses are currently available, and this has left the Casualty Department without a nurse in the evenings.
“This is beyond unacceptable, and our government does little to address these critical healthcare delivery issues,” Lewis added.
The leader noted that the male and female wards at the Glendon Hospital were also without adequate nursing cover with aides sometimes being the only ones available rather than registered nurses.
“This embarrassing situation reflects poorly on our healthcare services on Montserrat,” the leader said.
“I call on the Government of Montserrat to act swiftly to resolve these issues and improve the quality of healthcare delivery on Montserrat. This includes ensuring the retention of our present Healthcare Workers, and also to recruit the additional healthcare staff required to relieve our present healthcare staff who are overworked and grossly underpaid.”