While not stating expressly that employees would strike, the union representing workers at the mental institution today warned it would not wait forever for action.
More than a dozen nurses staged a two-day sickout on July 9 and 10 to highlight a number of grievances, including deplorable working conditions and having to work longer-than-normal shifts without compensation. They called off the industrial action ahead of a meeting with acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Tennyson Springer.
However, General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn told Barbados TODAY that there had been no progress since the talks, despite a promise that he would hear from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Civil Service.
“We are just waiting on the Ministry of the Civil Service to realize how serious the workers are. The problems at the hospital are not going to just go away. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Civil Service is supposed to get back to me. I heard unofficially that they have some plan of action. It has not been communicated to me, at least not in writing,” Franklyn complained.
The union boss charged that the Black Rock, St Michael institution was in a deplorable state and was not suitable for patient care, describing the plant as “ just a sty”.
“Patients should not be in those conditions. Some of the plant cannot be upgraded because, for example in Grassfield Ward, there is a crack in the wall from the 2007 earth tremor. They have patched the crack but the material used keeps falling out.
“Some of the buildings are structurally unsound. The cleaning of the wards has not been done for so long that it is a joke. Under these circumstances I am not going to wait too long on a response from the Ministry of the Civil Service,” Franklyn warned.
In mid-October last year, over a dozen staff nurses and general workers staged a short-lived protest sparked by the suspension of staff nurse, Rudolph Dates.
The workers were demanding the withdrawal of the suspension letter to Dates, a hospital employee of 15 years, who was accused of breaching the Public Service Code of Discipline.
Following a three hour work stoppage they returned to work with acting director of the hospital, David Leacock, giving the union the assurance that the workers’ grievances would be addressed.
During the work stoppage a staff nurse had charged that patients on the ward could not get potable drinking water, while others suffered from diarrhea after using broken faucets.
They were also reports of sheep droppings in the kitchen and the growth of fungus on the walls in some wards.