NURSES and other employees of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) held a small demonstration last week at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope, calling for their concerns to be addressed.
The staff, who are members of the Public Services Association (PSA), TT Registered Nurses Association (TTRN), National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) and the National Health Workers Union, joined forces calling for action.
PSA spokesman Kester Thomas said, "We need beefing up of security, especially on the wards where persons are using the elevators and coming onto the wards where nurses are not present at the time."
Thomas also lamented the authority's failure to pay outstanding salaries and the failure to implement the new salary agreement.
"We got a memo stating that the new payments would be shifted to March, which was not the agreement with the PSA," Thomas said.
They are also demanding permanent employment for contract workers.
"We were assured by three supervisors that we would get the letter by January, now we heard we would be getting it in July. We are asking that you give everyone the same date, and not give each union a different date. We have done our part by coming to work on time and we ask that you respect us. Our part is complete and we ask that you pay us on time," the employees demanded.
TTRN lead staff representative, Kelda Cornwall-Gomez, also said security for nurses was being neglected. She said there were several occasions where they have been attacked on the compound.
"We had a discussion up to this morning with management and nothing has been done, nothing has changed," said Gomez. The association's second vice president, Latisha Cox said sometimes there was only one registered nurse on the ward of more than 23 patients and one in the accident and emergency department.
She also bemoaned the lack of salary increases since 2013.
"Since 2013 persons have not received an increase in their salary. Right now people don't have money in their bank. Bring the management of the NCRHA to their heels, Let them do their work," was the suggestion of the collective group.
In response to the protesters, NCRHA chief executive Davlin Thomas said, "We have completed what we promised, which is the exercise to identify the quantum each individual would be paid.
"The monthly payment of increments and those who have not been paid since 2013, was something we inherited. The retroactive monies is about $58 million. That we cannot pay because we just don't have the money.
"We would, however, put an end to the accumulation of the debt and from January, our intention is to pay each eligible person according to their incremental points.
"That is going to be difficult but we are going to pay. The retroactive payment is out of our hands because we require supplemental funding from the minister.
"People (workers) are reasonable, they understand. We have 4000 workers and our core purpose is to continue to save lives. The one or two persons who depart from that, we wish them well. We would not bow or kneel. In January we would bite the bullet and pay the correct incremental points. The retroactive we just don't have that and we requested it. I'm sure if the money existed we would get it."
Thomas also said security measures on the compound were increased several times and there have been no recent incidents of staff being attacked on the compound.
However, he confirmed they have had constraints with nursing staff, but that issue was addressed.
"There may be times where we would have a shortage on wards, usually around the Yuletide season but we have pre-empted it," he said.
Last Wednesday, when the staff protested, he said 17 nurses were brought in and 20 were expected on Friday.
"It's never enough but we make sure they are as comfortable as humanly possible."
The protesters stormed the area where a luncheon was held for staff by the NCRHA, ending the proceedings prematurely.