Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele has highlighted in Parliament the delivery of a number of promises made to house doctors and nurses for 2015.
Addressing a sitting of Parliament on Monday at the Grenada Trade Centre at Grand Anse, St. George’s, the Health Minister told the Lower
House that on the first day of becoming Minister of Health after a stint as Minister of Foreign Affairs, he made promises to state-employed doctors that he can now say have been delivered.
“On the first day that I became Minister of Health, I did not go to the Ministry, that was not the first place I went. I went to the General Hospital to meet with a contingency of our house doctors who were in the process of taking action, due to their frustration, due to their conditions and due to their complaints,” he said.
Steele elaborated on the number promises made and delivered so far to the doctors.
“I met with those doctors, I made promises to those doctors and we have delivered to those doctors. We have delivered Doctors quarters to them first and foremost. One of my promises and understanding from communication with them was an inequality in policies that existed where a doctor newly graduating from St George’s University (SGU) internship programme. (In) some instances, the state will call upon that individual to exercise their bond and then in other periods the state would not and they would escape their commitment to the nation”, he said.
“…Those who were working in the system feel unfairly treated, I made a promise to them and we have implemented a policy and I enforce in the policy that every single doctor that is bonded, the graduates from St George’s University will come into the system and work, will repay their debt,” he added.
Minister Steele also referred to an undertaking given to the doctors to provide scholarships for them to improve in their areas of specialisation.
“I promised the doctors scholarships to further themselves in a professional development and this year five doctors left the state of Grenada to further themselves in residencies, four in Cuba and one in China. I’m proud to announce that last week in Malta we started a discussion, soon additional Grenadians can go to Malta to further themselves there in residency programmes.
“…With those five doctors leaving the state to go further themselves to be able to serve Grenada and provide a better health care to our citizens, it reduced the amount of doctors here. As such Mr Speaker we are in final negotiations with the government of Cuba to have an additional contingency of doctors from Cuba come to Grenada before the end of the year or within the first couple of weeks in January to alleviate the situation.
Steele also boasted that some delivery was made to the Nurses, despite their recent action to engage in work stoppage and protest action.
“I understand the issues, I understand also that our nurses are the fiber that holds our health system together and that is why I can proudly stand with them, identifying with their problems and most importantly Mr Speaker, knowing that before they took to the streets we were well on the way of delivering on their issues”, he said.
“We have started and continue the hiring process. Most importantly while maintaining the fiscal responsibility within the constraints of maintaining the budget, 45 nurses were hired this year and we are in the process of hiring an additional 30 and 2016 we will be hiring more. I want to say this will be done while maintaining the budgetary constraints that we have, this will be done while maintaining the policy of attrition throughout the government but this will be done in the best interest of the people of Grenada,” he added.
The Minister acknowledged that the health system will always have its problems and referred to a strike action in UK in which house doctors experienced similar issues that are being faced in Grenada.
“I say this to draw attention to the fact that health has its challenges in any and every economy, in any and all countries, regardless of their level of income, Grenada is no exception. What makes a difference is a government, a team, leadership, that strives to identify the problem and fix the problems, within the constraints that we are operating under,” he said.
During the 2008-15 period when it was in opposition, the NNP had engaged in protest action to force the then ruling Congress administration of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas to improve the island’s healthcare system.