Saturday, January 22, 2005

TGWU accuse Caruana of “political incompetence"

Health row escalates

TGWU/ACTS has issued a strongly worded statement criticising Chief Minister Peter Caruana’s recent remarks in the on-going row affecting the Gibraltar Health Authority.

According to Transport House, Mr Caruana has decided to “get tough with health workers” while further stating that “it is no surprise that 6 Convent Place is criticised for being arrogant, secretive and unaccountable.”

In a statement to the Chronicle a TGWU/ACTS spokesman has also accused the Gibraltar Government of “holding the nurses to ransom because they know very well that they are restricted in the protest action that they can take.”

The Union also rejects the Chief Minister’s comments labelling nurses’ claims as “unjustified” and accuses him of “denying what everybody else knows.”

TGWU/ ACTS also accuse the Gibraltar Government of trying to justify its “lack of planning,” failing in its management of the GHA, and “blaming nurses and their trade union representative.”

Nursing Section Chairman Michael Netto said:

We believe that the comment yesterday by 6 Convent Place in relation to our grievances in the GHA represent an insult to all health care professionals and a denial of our commitment to the GHA and our patients. It is evident to all members of our community that the whole process in relation to Mount Alvernia has clearly not been thought through. It is hard to say whether it has happened by accident or design, but the consequences as we all know are going to be serious. Many will soon realise that moving to the new hospital will not mean the great leap forward for the GHA after all.

Government said yesterday that only 15 nurses from the GHA complement are required for the move of patients to the Elderly Care Agency, and that vacancies are shortly to be advertised for extra staff. We must ask why it has taken Government so long to inform nurses, the union and the general public of their strategy. In fact we believe that this information has only been made public as a result of our criticism regarding the lack of forward planning in relation to the transfer of patients.

We would also like to know why it has taken Government more than a year to employ a permanent elderologist when employing locum cover for all this time has been at great expense to the taxpayer. Why has there not been a substantial expansion to the community and domiciliary service in line with UK ratios prior to the opening of the new hospital? What has happened to the GHA’s plan for a rehabilitation ward?

Government rightly points to increased absenteeism but fails to explain why the hospital is now running almost permanently at close to full capacity, with extra beds being provided in TV rooms and elderly patients nursed in overcrowded conditions. When the Chief Minister publicly blames nurses for delays in admission and discharges of patients, he is not only showing signs of not knowing about the problems in the GHA but being unfair in making this comment.

We recognise that the GHA wants to manage absenteeism and that persistent misuse of sick leave by a minority of employees needs to be dealt with. Already in August 2000, Government stated that absenteeism deprives patients of due care, and it reflects the political incompetence of 6 Convent Place allowing this to continue for so long, when we have repeatedly advised the GHA of what measures to put in place to deal with this crisis situation.

Last year Government commissioned a report on occupational health, a key issue here being absenteeism and we have been requesting a copy of the report for some time. The question is why does the Chief Minister hold back on this critical issue that is central to reducing the problem? Government should realise that high absenteeism is a symptom not the cause of the GHA crisis.

We will continue to defend the interests of our members and at the same time commit ourselves to support any move to improve the quality of care to our patients.
Notwithstanding the above the Nursing Section is willing to sit down and negotiate all issues related to nursing with the Government.

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