On the heels of praise from the Minister of Health, 76 staffers walked off the job at the Linden Hospital Complex yesterday.
The strike was caused by the lack of gratuity paid to staff members for the month of March, Vanessa Kissoon, Region 10 Representative for APNU told the National Assembly during the budget debate yesterday that while Minister Bheri Ramsaran was praising the Linden hospital as one of the best in the country, that same sentiment was not felt by the staff.
“Today the nurses went on strike. 76 persons or workers did not receive their gratuity for the month of March. Of this 76, 63 are nurses 23 of them are auxiliary staff…30 plus single mothers and among the males they are the breadwinners of their homes,” she said.
This is not the first time there have been problems with the gratuity payment.
Kissoon said that the Linden hospital runs on a petty cash budget that is less than $30,000 for the entire complex. She noted that this severe deficiency puts the hospital at a disadvantage and was yet another reason Region 10 wanted the hospital to be removed from the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and handed to the Regional Democratic Council. “The board of the Linden hospital needs to be reconfigured, the people of Linden would like the hospital to be corporatized,” she stated.
Kissoon said that it was not just the Linden Hospital but the other health facilities in Region 10 were also in a state of disarray. She stated that ambulances were needed because if an ambulance had to leave Linden for Georgetown, there would be no emergency vehicle left in the town. Kissoon stated that refrigerator units were not available at the Wismar hospital so insulin was left to spoil.
The Region 10 representative called on the government to remember the August 21 agreement that brought the Linden tariff unrest to a halt when she spoke about the $2.9B budget allotment for Region 10.
“It needs to be recorded that this sum forms part of the investment Region 10 made in this country’s economy. It comes as a result of the blood, sweat, tears and bloodshed by forbearers, us and those who fell on July 18 2012.”
Kissoon said along with that recognition Region 10 residents were hopeful that the government would once again reinstate the subvention to the Critchlow Labour College located in Linden. She noted that the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment himself was allowed to pursue his academic journey beginning at a Critchlow College and she was seeking the government’s support in fostering the same for Region 10 students.
“Every school has to have a state-of-the-art library that will properly channel the inquisitive nature of childhood…library time should be on the curriculum,” Kissoon said. She added that the curriculum also needed to be inclusive of local history depicted in an unbiased manner. She said that the current “student/teacher ratio of 40 to one is a recipe for compromised quality delivery in education,” and schools needed to be a place for children to be structurally invested in.
Kissoon said that the family unit in Region 10 was under stress and “a vacuum was being created in the lives of our children who are missing out on the comfort and guidance of a stable family structure” and the schools are not the haven they should be.
“Regions 10’s economic dislocation is having two major impacts on family structure. One it has forced the menfolk to migrate to other areas in search of work to provide for their families…the absence of men has placed greater responsibility on women to take any job to supplement the family’s income or keep the family together.”
Because of the family stress and other deprived economic conditions Kissoon said that it was a fallacy of the government to state that the region was depicting prosperity due to promotion of housing schemes. “These so-called housing schemes do not have lights after roads or drainage and where such exist (they) are substandard work.”
Kissoon pulled out from her purse a plastic bag filled with broken pieces of what she said was a newly constructed road and said “you can walk and kick this…the problem is not the work that is being done but we are not getting value for money”. She said that the roads being constructed were millimetres thick and stood no chance of having any longevity.
“This is a budget that has no regard for social and economic justice for all Guyanese. This is a budget that widens the door for corruption and exclusion and will deepen divisions, distrust disposition and dislocation among ordinary citizens,” Kissoon noted. She said that “the role of the legislature is not to rubber-stamp the decisions of the executive” and as a result as Region 10 representative she could not support the 2013 budget.