Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) is awaiting the outcome of a probe by the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) into complaints that money deducted from the salaries of some nurses has not been paid to the relevant entities.
NAJ president Anthonette Patterson last week confirmed that some of its members at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) have been hit with late fees on loans by financial institutions even though their pay advice show that deductions have been made from their salaries.
"The NAJ became aware of the situation during a meeting with officials from SERHA at a February 22nd meeting at the KPH," Patterson told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We learnt from some of our members that insurance-policy deductions and car-loan payments were not being made in a timely manner, resulting in some nurses having to pay late fees," added Patterson, who noted that so far the complaints have been restricted to nurses at the KPH.
"We asked of the officials present at the meeting who will make late-payment fees which have arisen because of the situation. We have consulted with our lawyers because of the situation is not fair to our members. The region will have to take responsibility."
According to Patterson, SERHA officials said they were unaware of the matter and tried to convince the nurses that their claims were incorrect until she intervened.
"I had to let them know that deductions from nurses' salaries to the NAJ were not paid over on time. It's being paid months after, and it takes sometimes eight to 10 calls before the payments are made. This is not something that was reported to me, because sometimes I am the one making the calls myself. It's not unique to insurance companies and loan institutions," stated Patterson.
Shunned to do business
The NAJ president said nurses wishing to do business with some of the loan institutions are now being shunned.
"There are institutions that are now saying that my nurses cannot get loans from them because of the slow payment of persons who have already received loans and are not servicing them on time. I am telling you that some institutions have told them plainly that there is a credibility issue," charged Patterson.
The NAJ president said nurses are disgruntled and SERHA has been asked to provide a report on the matter. However, she could not say when the investigations would start and she was not given a completion date by SERHA
"So now I am waiting on a written response from SERHA to present to my nurses as it relates to the deductions. I told them I did not want an oral report, I want a written report," declared Patterson.
Efforts to get a comment from SERHA were unsuccessful up to press time.