The Public Workers Union (PWU) has chided Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele for his “unprofessional and irresponsible comments” made about the nation’s health care professionals and called on him to apologise.
The call came against the backdrop of statements made by Minister Steele at a recent post-Cabinet Press Briefing on the death of three babies at the General Hospital.
The minister said the system had failed the families of the babies and dropped hints that action should be taken against some persons.
Speaking to reporters at PWU building on Monday, the President of the union, Rachel Roberts stated that it was irresponsible of the minister to make the statements when he did not have evidence to back up the claim.
Roberts urged the Health Minister to present a report to the nation on the deaths of the three babies.
“We condemn the statements made by the minister, and we see that there were devoid of any empirical data, and we call on the minister therefore, to produce the report that he said would be on his desk by Friday, 12th of May, 2017”, she said.
“To date, we have not received such report, and the Public Workers Union (PWU) was awaiting this report before we came to the media to make any comments and we have not to date seen nor heard of the report”, she added.
According to Roberts, as far as PWU is concerned Minister Steele “made comments without any empirical evidence, and we say these comments were hasty and he did not confront with his medical professionals…”.
“…We see that the Minister of Health, totally eroded the protocols of the Ministry of Health, and that of his Permanent Secretary who is responsible for the day-to-day operations and functions of the Ministry, that of his Chief Medical Officer who is responsible for the medical doctors, and that of his Chief Nursing Officer who is responsible for the nurses, to give him any clarity that he needed; any information that he needed, and to act on any information that was provided concerning the health care system”, she told reporters.
“We see this as totally irresponsible, and we call on the Minister of Health to apologise to our nurses and doctors as we see his comments as being unprofessional and damaging to the image of our professionals”, she said.
According to the PWU boss, a proper investigation should have been done before Steele jumped and made statements which sought to impeach the medical professionals.
“We see that today we have not seen the report and this report is vital to the process. We see that the Minister of Health did not seek to obtain a report from the Death Review Committee before coming to the public with his complaints, and we see this again as being irresponsible.
“Any comments that were to be made by the Minister of Health should be made based on evidence; evidence and a proper investigation. The minister failed to carry out a proper investigation before commenting to our nation on something that we see as very confidential and as violating the patients/clients’ confidentiality.
The female trade union leader called on the senior government minister to issue an apology for putting the medical professionals in bad public light.
“We believe that this matter is one that seems to want to appear to us to damage the image of our members, and especially coming from a Minister of Health who we do not know possesses any medical qualification, and he took on his own accord to prematurely make announcement that were devoid of any investigative report”, she said.
“…We also note that our professionals who have served the Health Care System for many years, and are well aware of the various terminologies within the Health Care System, and the operations of our Health Care System stated and asked the Minister of Health to apologise to our nurses and our doctors and he failed to do so.
“We call on him as a responsible minister to offer an apology to our Health Care Professionals who serve this organisation; who serve the Ministry of Health, who provide health care services with distinction.
Roberts also used the occasion to remind Minister Steele that PWU is not responsible for disciplining members in light of his call on the Union and the Public Service Commission (PSC) to work together in ensuring that the issue of the death does not reoccur.
She slammed the minister for attempting to use the PSC conveniently when it suits him.
“We recognise that the Minister of Health appears to only know about the Public Service Commission (PSC) and its roles and responsibilities when it suits him. When it comes to hiring, the Minister of Health seems to forget that the Public Service Commission (PSC) is also responsible for that, as we note that we have many nurses operating through the private agency within the hospital system, and we are very dissatisfied and very unhappy with the comments made by our Minister of Health,” she said.
The PWU has accused the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of usurping the powers of the PSC by seeking to appoint persons into the public service through a private recruiting agency.
Under the Grenada Constitution, the PSC is recognized as the sole body responsible for the hiring of public officers.