THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine is expected to make an announcement on Monday on Tobago’s position on covid19 vaccination in the public sector.
The Prime Minister said last month that by mid-January, all public servants and employees at state agencies will be required to be vaccinated or be furloughed without pay.
But last Sunday, after a retreat of the executive council, Augustine said the assembly was contemplating its own way forward with respect to its employees, and hence he had asked for a report on the vaccination status of each THA division.
Speaking on the Tobago Updates morning show on Friday, Augustine said: “You can look forward to an announcement by Monday.”
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi earlier said he had noted comments from Augustine that Tobago would decide its policy, but added that if and when a law is passed, that law is a law which applies to the whole of TT.
But Augustine differed.
“I would caution you not to listen much to the AG," he said. "He is known for not winning many cases in the court and he’s known for not being a very brilliant lawyer either, so I wouldn’t pay him much attention.”
He added, “The THA pays a cadre of public servants and staff, and we decide whether we pay them or not. That doesn’t come from Trinidad, that is devolved authority to the THA, and I have a responsibility to make a decision that is a responsible one.”
A memo to all heads of department on January 7, signed by general manager of human resources Michelle Garcia, asked them to obtain copies of their vaccination cards from THA staff.
Augustine said the intent of the circular was misinterpreted.
“What we are actively doing is trying to see how many of those that we pay are actually vaccinated (and) who are unvaccinated.”
He recalled the PM’s statistics that 50 per cent of TRHA workers are vaccinated.
“If I have a situation where 50 per cent of my hospital staff is unvaccinated, I cannot responsibly tell the 50 per cent that is unvaccinated to stay home. Then I would end up with a larger crisis on my hands, where people would simply die.
"At the moment, our hospital staff, they’re stressed out, they’re overworked, and if 50 per cent of those are removed, based on that edict from the Prime Minister, then naturally services would not be available at the hospital.”
He said for him, saving lives is more important that the egos of the AG and the Prime Minister.
“I recognise that the AG is trying to actively mount a campaign of hate and spite against the people of Tobago because they’ve (the PNM) lost an election.
"We’ve moved past the election a long time ago. We’re in a new year, and that’s why I pay the AG very little mind. I don’t respond to him unless I am asked to, I am not interested in getting into rabs with him, because it’s just an unnecessary clutter and noise in the space. We are going to do what is responsible.”
He said there may even be a situation based on the cursory numbers been seen in some division, if only the vaccinated to come out, the vaccinated would not get salaries.
“There just would not be sufficient staff to process salaries. An administrator cannot go down to accounts and herself or himself do the salary books then sign off the cheques by herself or himself – that would not work. What about paying the bills of the THA – keep the utilities going – what about the critical spend that is needed in the hospital. So I am not listening to the AG at all, I am doing what is responsible.”
He said after carefully ascertaining what Tobago’s numbers for vaccinated versus unvaccinated looks like, only then a determination would be made on what is the best approach.
“I understand the intention of the Prime Minister and I understand the intention of the Prime Minister is to try and find an aggressive to coerced people into getting vaccinated but the cost of the candle should not be more than the cost of the funeral and we have to measure that.”