Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Reclassification, no-wage proposal, among issues irking them
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
THE MATTER of implementing the reclassification of the island's nurses by the Government is still a major issue for the Nurses' Association of Jamaica (NAJ), nearly three years after the process was completed in December 2009.
According to NAJ president, Anthonette Patterson, the matter was placed high on the agenda at the NAJ 66th annual conference at Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa, Ocho Rios, St Ann last week.
"The general membership is quite disturbed at this time as to the inordinate delay of the Government in addressing or implementing the outstanding reclassification for registered nurses," Patterson told The Gleaner last Friday.
"The Government is fully aware that reclassification has been completed since December 2009, and we're aware that the Government has mandated the nurses to be a part of a reclassification taskforce at the Ministry of Health, where we sat in eight meetings, to arrive at a decision as to an implementation date and a payment schedule.
"We have completed that document and have submitted it to the Government. So we're saying that while the Government is seeking to control the economy, we're urging them to be mindful of the public-sector workers, inclusive of nurses."
Patterson said nurses are poorly remunerated and as such, if the Government needs to control what's happening in the economy, they must be aware that efficiency and productivity are the way forward.
"How can you have a productive and efficient workforce without having your employees satisfied?" Patterson questioned. "The nurses are at this time quite dissatisfied, and so we urge the Government to implement our reclassification that is outstanding."
Patterson also reiterated the NAJ's stance that nurses will not accept a wage freeze at this time
"We have no intention of accepting a no-wage increase offer. It is high time the Government recognises that while they're balancing the books, they must seek to balance the lives of our nurses," Patterson said.
She added: "Our nurses have to be working under strenuous conditions, under serious conditions, the conditionality of work is quite inhumane, and so we're urging the Government to make sure that while they try to balance the economy, the need to recognise that the nurses' challenges needs to be addressed."
The nurses also discussed two other very important issues, that of lack of housing and the retention of graduate nurses in the health system in Jamaica.
According to Patterson, 95 per cent of Jamaica's nurses retire in rented apartments or family homes. She argued that it is high time the Government takes an interest in the welfare of the nurses by providing adequate housing solutions.