Alarmed at the response by two regional health authorities (RHAs) when covid19-positive employees were reportedly identified at two hospitals, the president of the National Health Workers Union (NHWU) has written to the Chief Medical Officer and the Health Minister.
Union president Nigel Small warned that failure to contain covid19, especially in a hospital environment, could have “disastrous consequences.”
He said on July 30, management at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) told kitchen staff a covid19 case had been traced to the complex.
“To our amazement, upon informing their manager of their fear, he instructed them to immediately return to the area and continue working with no further review or clarification of the risk posed,” said the statement.
Small also said workers were made to sterilise the area themselves.
On August 1, San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) staff members were told they might have come in contact with a recent covid19 case. The SWRHA sterilised the area, but secondary contacts were asked to return to work.
Small wrote to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Roshan Parasram to express his concern.
The EWMSC falls under the North-Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) and the SFGH under the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA).
While primary contacts of the employees were sent home to self-quarantine, secondary contacts were asked to return to work at both RHAs, he wrote.
“This situation highlights our ongoing plight as health workers, classified as essential workers, who many believe do not have the right to stop work when there is immediate danger to life and health.”
He said the manager at the EWMSC had since sought disciplinary action against the workers.
“Many workers are subjected to punitive action if they refuse to carry out instructions to engage in work that is immediately dangerous to their life and health,” Small wrote.
He asked the Health Ministry to intervene immediately to prevent similar occurrences in future.
“It is our expectation that workers’ jobs not come under threat for acting to protect their own safety, their families and that of the country at large.”
Newsday tried to reach officials of the Ministry of Health and the respective RHAs for comment but was unsuccessful.