NJAC: Govt must overhaul health system, consult labour workers and implement hazard allowance

“[…] NJAC calls on the Government to urgently implement […] a special hazard allowance or similar benefit […] for all frontline workers throughout the health sector.

NJAC notes with interest, that there is already a precedent for this existing throughout the Caribbean and other parts of the world…”

The following is a media statement from NJAC servant president and former Minister in the Ministry of National Security Embau Moheni:

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh (left) presents a hamper to nurse Angelia Lovell-Spencer.
(via Ministry of Health)

The National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) calls for an immediate overhaul of the health system, along with the current strategies that have been employed in the fight against Covid-19 in Trinidad and Tobago.

During the past few months, we have witnessed a worsening of the crisis facing our health institutions. This is evident by an increasing number of hospital admissions and deaths of fully vaccinated persons.

There has been a total breakdown of the primary health care and community health care system, where preventative measures are supposed to be managed, leading to the collapse of the management of persons in home quarantine. The situation in many of our health institutions has become chaotic as a result of severe shortages in both human and material resources, including beds, medication and equipment.

As a result, many have been falling victim to critical inefficiencies in the quality of service and care that is being provided at the various health institutions.

Recent trends have given cause for great concern among the population. December 2021 has been recorded as the deadliest month since the beginning of the pandemic. With a total of 711 deaths and 20,538 cases, it is also the month that recorded the highest number of infections to date.

Photo: A woman is tested for Covid-19.

The seven-day rolling average for deaths due to Covid-19 continues to be over 20 and shows very little sign of subsiding soon.

NJAC is of the view that factors such as mismanagement, short sightedness and a wanton disregard of the views and situation of others have all played their part in the creation of this breakdown and chaos. This situation has led to an increasing level of frustration and a lack of motivation among our health workers. 

NJAC is concerned that this can only exacerbate an already critical situation, especially as we prepare to deal with another variant that is already here (Omicron) and the possibility of another that is on the horizon (Flurona), which is already present in Israel and Britain. 

NJAC calls on the Government to urgently implement the following proposals:-

1. Withdraw the potentially divisive Safe Zone policy for the Public Service/Public Sector workers and immediately embark on a process of national mobilisation and consultation with various groups, including the health workers, labour organisations, NGOs, private health institutions and business organisations.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi have a word in Parliament on 21 October 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

This broad involvement of the people can allow for the creation, accommodation and implementation of ideas and practices which can assist in bringing about solutions to the existing situation and which will also incentivise and motivate many among the population, particularly our health care workers.

2. A special hazard allowance or similar benefit be provided for all frontline workers throughout the health sector. NJAC notes with interest that there is already a precedent for this existing throughout the Caribbean and other parts of the world. 

3. Regularisation of all nurses and doctors who are currently on contract and efforts made to secure additional nurses and doctors from other jurisdictions on a temporary emergency basis, who can supplement our present staff in the health sector.

4. Attempts be made to secure additional specially trained ICU personnel to urgently increase capacity at all ICU departments.

5. An immediate recall of all retired nurses and midwives who may be willing to and still capable of effectively contributing to the health system. Such persons can be placed on short-term contracts. 

Photo: Medical staff at the Arima General Hospital.
(via NCRHA)

It is NJAC’s view, that these measures should offer some level of hope to the country. There is need to move beyond the existing construct as, at present, too many of our citizens are showing more and more despair, including many of those who are employed within the health sector.

NJAC believes that the Government must act on these proposals now to avoid an impending disaster.  

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