JIS News

Minister of Health, the Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has said that his Ministry is prepared to take any action necessary to ensure that the health service remains in a position to provide care for all Jamaicans.
“We are prepared to take any necessary action to restore stability to the sector and to ensure that we are in a position to provide health care to the people of Jamaica,” Mr. Spencer told a press conference at his Ministry in Kingston Wednesday (October 14).
Mr. Spencer said that the public health sector continued to have an unusually high number of nurses off the job Wednesday, despite the back to work order issued by the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) on Tuesday night for normality by 7 a.m. He stated that of the 578 nurses scheduled to be at work in the morning, 129 did not turn up.
“It would appear that some nurses have disobeyed the order, and we have no option but to again refer the matter to the Ministry of Labour for appropriate action,” he said.
“The Ministry of Health will not tolerate this level of instability or uncertainty in the public health sector. I am particularly distressed that the actions of the nurses have resulted in a scaling down of our renal dialysis services, putting the lives of sufferers at risk,” the Minister added.
He described the actions of the nurses involved in the industrial action as “reckless” and endangering the lives and well being of Jamaicans who are in need of health care, “and who are the ones that are footing the wage bill of the nurses.”
He said that, in the meantime, the Ministry of Health is maintaining contingency arrangements, as elective surgeries have been postponed and non critical patients are being discharged.
“We urge persons to make alternative arrangements for their health care at this time, unless their situation is considered an emergency. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep the nation informed,” he said.
He thanked the nurses who remained on the job for ensuring that “we can keep our doors open to those who are suffering.”
He confirmed that $430 million have been made available in the 2009/10 Supplementary Estimates, to honour the 15 per cent pay increase that was awarded to all public sector workers for the 2008/09 financial year for nurses.
“The Nurses Association of Jamaica was informed that this money is available. I am using this forum to let all nurses in the public health sector know that they can get this money at anytime,” Mr. Spencer said.
The Minister also recalled last week the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service agreed to meet with all public sector workers on Thursday (October 15), to update them on the reclassification of the sector, while the Ministry of Labour and Social Security had agreed to meet the nurses on Friday. However, it is now unlikely that Friday’s meeting will go ahead, in light of the industrial action.
In 2006, the Government took a decision to undertake a reclassification of jobs in the public health sector, which involves four large groups namely, health managers and policy advisors, health professionals, health support and health technicians and associate professional groups.

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