THA Secretary of the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine has said contract nurses, who are clamouring for benefits and allowances on par with their permanent counterparts, will be the first to be considered for positions at the new Roxborough Hospital.
The facility, built at a cost of $98 million, was handed over to the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development two weeks ago. Primary care services began on May 3 and full hospital services will commence at a later date.
The contract nurses, who were hired by the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) to serve on a short-term basis at the start of the covid19 pandemic in 2020, have complained they have been carrying out their responsibilities for more than a year without paid sick leave, vacation leave and maternity leave.
Progressive Democratic Patriots deputy political leader Farley Augustine raised the issue at a media conference last week.
He described the issue as “unfair and unfortunate.”
In response, Davidson-Celestine said the status of the contract nurses, who were initially employed for six months, will remain unchanged for the time being as the TRHA is not hiring.
The issue was again raised on Friday at the division’s virtual health media briefing.
Davidson-Celestine said the contract nurses will be offered opportunities within the TRHA, but noted they were hired specifically to supplement permanent staff during the pandemic.
“As I would have pointed out, those nurses were hired to assist with the response to covid19,” she said.
“We knew, of course, there would be a demand for health services and they were brought in around that period in time to help to support the initiatives that were undertaken.”
Davidson-Celestine added: “I just want to make the point again that there are opportunities for the nurses to be trained and, of course, there is one other facility that we have to staff in the not-so-distant future and that would be the Roxborough Hospital.
“I would take it that they would be the first batch of persons to be looked at when that opportunity comes to select persons as nurses and doctors.”
She said the nurses will also be considered for positions at health centres and the Scarborough General Hospital when vacancies arise.
Davidson-Celestine, who met on Tuesday with some of the employees in the public health department, said the contract nurses should use the experience of being on the frontline of the pandemic as an opportunity to be trained.
“Look at this as an opportunity to gain experience; to be trained and to learn about the ways of the Tobago Regional Health Authority and to be a part of this very ground-breaking process where you are trying to manage the spread of a virus on this island.”