Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
Edith Allwood Anderson, past president of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica (NAJ), says the profession has secured a major victory, following the announcement that Cabinet has signed off on the long overdue reclassification for nurses.
"The reclassification for nurses means that somebody has looked on the worth and the work of nurses and has re-evaluated it and has moved to assign what you call a payment package to it," Allwood Anderson said.
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, speaking at an event marking International Nurses Day and the launch of National Nurses Week at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston on Saturday, announced the Cabinet's decision.
The minister, however, added that discussion is still ongoing as to the date of its implementation.
Responding to the news, Allwood Anderson said "What is necessary next is for us to move to a payment schedule against the background of a difficult economic situation in our country".
The association's current president, Anthonette Patterson-Bartley, commended the Government for its latest move.
"The Nurses' Association is happy and pleased that this reclassification has been approved. It says to the Nurses' Association that the ministers have recognised that there is a need for our reclassification to get off the ground," Patterson-Bartley said.
The NAJ and the Government have long knocked heads over the need for a reclassification. In 2009, the Industrial Dispute Tribunal ruled that the Government should confirm a date for the implementation of the reclassification exercise.
The Government at the time did not immediately set a date for the reclassification exercise, and that led to a series of protests by the NAJ.
In the meantime, Ferguson said the Government is committed to building a paediatric hospital in western Jamaica.
"I recognise that the children's hospital responds to 0-12 (age group) so there is a gap as it relates to our 13-17 so we need to work to close this gap."
"We have also lost many of our patients trying to get from western Jamaica to children's hospital," Ferguson said.
He added that research has already been conducted to look into the need for such a hospital in the western end and said that his ministry is now seeking to determine the kind of "private-public model".