The main public sector trade union here has launched an investigation into complaints over the living conditions of those National Assistance Board (NAB) workers who were recently placed in quarantine at a popular St James hotel following the positive tests of five NAB staffers for the COVID-19 virus.
General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Delcia Burke said today the over 100 persons comprising about 37 NAB employees and management officials, their families and contacts are unhappy with their meals and living arrangements.
“They say they are in isolation, not in quarantine. Meals are late and cold and they have been threatened with transfers to Paragon if they don’t stop complaining,” Burke told Barbados TODAY.
“I am dealing with it, but it should not have happened in the first place. They [authorities] called them and told them they were coming to collect them in a couple of hours…they never told them where they were taking them and they ended up at the hotel,” she added.
The NUPW leader said however that the union’s efforts to thoroughly probe this matter are challenged by the fact that all the persons who would say or do anything are in quarantine.
“Let me tell you what the problem is. All the persons that they have to report to are in quarantine. All the persons that would say anything or do anything are in quarantine. The management in quarantine and the office staff that the other people would report to are in quarantine. So really there is nobody. But they are all complaining. They want to go home,” Burke declared.
“Food is ordered in and by the time it gets there it is cold. You have entire families down there, even children,” the union leader revealed.
She told Barbados TODAY that the workers are also contending they should not be “down here” if they tested negative for the virus.
“They have said there are 37; there are about 110 people. I am not sure because there are families including husbands, children and the spouses and everybody they came into contact with down there with them
“So 37 members of staff plus their families and anybody else they would have come into contact with. My understanding is that some of them were moved to a hotel in Dover,” the NUPW boss disclosed.
She said the quarantined persons are in separate rooms.
A statement issued this week by the Government information Service (GIS) said that all 236 members of staff of the NAB have been tested for COVID-19, and no additional positive results have been recorded.
Consequently, officials of the Ministry of Health and Wellness have advised Barbadians, particularly elderly and incapacitated persons who depend on personnel from the Home Help Service for assistance, that they have nothing to fear while interacting with these workers.
Additionally, the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs has reiterated that while the headquarters of the NAB is closed in accordance with the advice of health officials, its Home Help Programme remains fully functional.
Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Kenneth George explained in the GIS statement that personnel from the Ministry of Health had been engaged in rigourous contact tracing since the first case was discovered and they were now satisfied there was no threat to the public from these workers.
He explained that after the completed course of testing, there remained five positive cases among office staff of the NAB headquarters, which had been traced to one member who had come into contact with a family member with a travel history.
The one non-office staffer who tested positive is a home helper. Investigations revealed the patient came into contact with one of the office staff.
As a result of intensive investigations of this home helper’s case, including testing of the individual and family members, George explained that there was no need for any fear among clients of the service.
But this afternoon, Barbados TODAY reached out to the Government’s COVID-19 Czar Richard Carter for comment on the NAB staff complaints. However, he said issues related to quarantine facilities were not his responsibility and referred this media house to Dr George or Senior Medical Officer Dr Anton Best who had acted as CMO for much of the current crisis.
Persistent calls to Minister of Health and Wellness Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic and Dr Best went unanswered while efforts to contact Dr George in office proved unsuccessful. Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde also could not be reached by phone. [email protected]