Frustration appears to be growing among a handful of nurses at the Psychiatric Hospital. They claim that for years, they are being paid on a scale below their level of qualifications.
The situation is particularly infuriating as the healthcare workers witness others secure their monies and as their colleagues from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) receive additional payments for their work in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Psychiatric Hospital Director David Leacock acknowledged some of the institution’s public health workers are still waiting on appointments. He, however, noted that Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic addressed the issues in a recent staff meeting. The hospital chief argued that it “seems a bit malicious” for affected nurses to bring it into the public domain.
One of the affected nurses who has been in the system more than a decade explained that after serving as an untrained nursing assistant (UNN), she attained the educational qualifications necessary for a promotion to the post of Certified Nursing Assistant. In fact, for more than two years, the worker has been qualified and performing the duties assigned to the higher-ranked general nurse without the requisite compensation.
Since then, the employee has approached the Personnel Administration Department (PAD) stationed at the Black Rock, St. Michael hospital to inquire about her continued status and payment as a nursing assistant. There, she said she was informed that the necessary information had been sent off to the department’s main office. However, after approaching the main PAD office, she was told they had no such information.
“This has been going on for two years now. My pay slip is marked nursing assistant, but I am carrying out staff nurse duties. Two weeks ago I spoke to someone from PAD and you know what the person said? ‘I have your documents here and when I get around to them, I will do it,” said the psychiatric nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimization.
The employee recalled that at least one of her colleagues was only upgraded after refusing to continue carrying out the duties of staff nurse.
“This makes no sense to me. Why do nurses have to fight like they are fighting for crumbs off of a table? This is not right and it has been going on for too long,” said another nurse.
“Some people tell me I would have to know somebody at PAD who can put in a word for me, but nobody should have to put in a word for me so that I can get money that I worked for. That makes no sense to me.
“They are saying ‘give a clap for the health workers’, but we don’t want any clap, we want actions,” the mental health professional added.
In response, Director Leacock said, while he sympathized particularly with those who have been waiting on appointments for years, the complaints are in “poor taste” and appear “malicious” less than two weeks after meetings that included the Minister of Health and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) were held.
“It’s really in poor taste and is poor public service operations because this is not how things are done. If the union has taken on something, I would think the staff would give the union the chance to come back to them and say the minister has not acted as they want,” Mr Leacock told Barbados TODAY.
“If these things are happening for years then I agree that yes, they should be addressed in due haste because no one should have to hang on for multiple years for their salary. But if you have had discussions at the level of the minister, I do think the least [an employee] can do is to give them time to come back and say something or for the unions to come back and say otherwise.
“I have spoken quite bluntly to my nursing staff and I have said to them that you have a lot of sympathy and empathy from the public right now, but you must be mindful that you do not turn the empathy that is out there against you by seeming to just be about money at a time when the country is reeling and trying to stay afloat,” added the hospital director.
Since 2019, dozens of nurses have been appointed in an effort to regularise pay for those performing at a higher level. In fact, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has given a deadline of March 2021 for appointments and related salary issues to be addressed.
Multiple efforts to reach Christian Rock, the NUPW’s Industrial Relations officer responsible for nurses, were unsuccessful.