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…wants Linden nurses to end strike, engage in talks
The Ministry of Health on Saturday urged the nurses and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) to end the industrial action at the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC) and continue to engage the ministry in resolving the fallout with the CEO who made disparaging remarks at the staff.
In a statement the ministry said the situation presently has the potential to impact on the welfare of the people of Linden and by extension the entire Region 10. “The MOH remains open to further engagement with the nurses of the Linden Hospital Complex and their Union,” the statement added.
Nurses have been protesting the CEO, Rudolph Small who was sacked then reinstated by the ministry last week. Small had alleged that the nurses would report for work, sign the time and then leave and spend the night with their “sweet man”. The nurses have taken umbrage to his remarks and have been calling for his removal.
The Health Ministry said it is concerned that, in spite of agreeing to engage the nursing staff and the Union through the Ministry of Labour, the nurses continue to restrict the full complement of staff at the Linden Hospital Complex. “We consider the strike action by nurses at the LHC illegal and that the resort to strike action before engaging the MOH is premature.”
“From the very beginning, the MOH treated the nurses concern as serious. The statements made by the CEO, Mr. Rudy Small, is unacceptable and the Ministry immediately demanded a retraction. Prior to the matter coming to our attention, Mr. Small had issued an apology. Mr. Small, never-the-less, was immediately instructed to report to the Permanent Secretary’s office, where he was rebuked and warned that any further such uncalled for behavior will not be accepted without consequence.
Mr. Small issued a further apology both to the staff of the LHC and to the Health Ministry. He recommitted his pledge to service and to the ideals and mission of the MOH and the LHC. The MOH agreed at the meeting with the Chief Labour Officer to engage the nurses and the Union on a way forward but not until the strike is called off,” the statement read.
The ministry said the Permanent Secretary has informed the union in a discussion with their representative on March 5, 2021 that the ministry remains open and ready to discuss the concerns of the nurses at the LHC. We will, however, not negotiate under duress. We remain in contact with the Union and with the Ministry of Labour and we are ready at any time to resume the discussions we started on March 4th at the Ministry of Labour.
On Tuesday last Small was instructed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Malcolm Watkins to vacate his position in light of the derogatory comments he made about the nurses which sparked widespread criticisms and calls for his removal. But the ministry reversed its decision and instead admonished Small to go back to the hospital and ‘behave himself’.
In the letter of reinstatement signed by the permanent secretary the ministry said further to the report for you to report to the Ministry of Health, the following guidance is provided. “The leadership of the Ministry, having had a frank discussion with you, has decided that you are to return to your position as the Chief Executive Officer of the LHC, effective March 3, 2021.
The Ministry wishes to caution that we expect you to conduct yourself in a manner consistent with the position you were employed in. We expect that you will engage in activities with the staff that mend the tension in relationship that presently exists.
We expect that your conduct in the future will be consistent with the ideals and mission of the LHC and that you are faithful to the ideals and the mission of the LHC as you carry out your duties and responsibilities,” the letter read.
On Wednesday morning the nurses who were in front of the CEO’s office since 06:00hrs chanted, “Wicked Rudy must go!” and “We demand respect!”
According to a representative of the Guyana Public Service Union, Maurice Butters, the protest will continue until Small is removed from his post as CEO of the LHC. “Nobody in their righted mind would accept the decision made to reinstall Small as the CEO,” he added.
Butters who is also present at the ongoing protest told reporters that he understands that the call for Small’s reinstatement was made by someone in a higher position than the Permanent Secretary.
Also speaking with Village Voice News was the Vice Chairman of Region 10, Douglas Gittens who expressed his disappointment on the return of the CEO.
“We are seriously disappointed with the situation. We have these persons working in pandemic and they are dealing with stress already. Why should they have to deal with a situation like this where the head of the hospital is accusing them and disrespecting them.”
Gittens noted that he is present at the protest to ensure that nothing is done to the nurses and to show that Regional Democratic Council is in support of them. It is alleged that during an interview done with a blogger, the CEO said that the “introduction of a electronic time keeping system at the hospital is to help clamp down on egregious practices among LHC nurses who sign in for work abandon their posts by leaving clandestinely for late night trysts.”
This information was published in an article written by the blogger following the interview. It is alleged that the CEO went on to say, “I intend to put a stop to this. We have some nurses who are accustomed to reporting for duty at nights…they sign in then they get away (and) go and sleep with their sweet man…(and) would come back in and sign out in the morning.” In a statement Small admitted that he made the comments off the record during a casual conversation with the blogger after an interview.