Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (left), greeting National Union of Public Workers General Secretary, Dennis Clarke.
General-Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW), Dennis Clarke recently paid a courtesy call on Minister of Health, Donville Inniss at his Jemmott’s Lane Headquarters. The discussion focused on issues related to the health- care system, particularly the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the Ministry as a whole.
Mr. Inniss told the NUPW General Secretary that the Ministry regarded the representative of the workers as “a strategic partner in improving our health care” and as such was committed to seeing “the Ministry of Health and the NUPW working together”.
He added: “I believe that we have to engage in dialogue, not only about challenging issues but also good issues, because at the end of the day our goal must be to ensure both staff satisfaction and staff security.”
The Minister also said that: “There should be no diminution of the importance of patient care and collectively we can strive to get a better health-care system in Barbados, bearing in mind that our human resources are our greatest asset in the achievement of such goals.”
Acknowledging that health care facilities (not just the QEH) were in need of some improvements, the Health Minister said that the physical plant was aged and had not been well maintained over the years. He noted that more attention needed to be paid to this problem.
Other issues which he noted had to be addressed were: low morale, occupational health and safety, and challenges in the primary and secondary health care institutions.
“We need to find ways of relieving some of the pressure on the QEH as well, and there may be some overarching issues relating to personnel which we need to look at,” Mr. Inniss said.
He also told the General Secretary that changes would need to be made in areas that were under performing in order to improve the health sector. And, he gave the assurance that, where possible, any major decisions would be taken in consultation with the workers’ representatives.
In response, Mr. Clarke spoke about certain past developments within the Health Ministry which could have benefitted from the input of the union.
The union representative explained that: “It (the Ministry of Health) is one of [the] three most difficult Ministries of Government, given its size and the services it provides and therefore we believe that there should be some mechanism of consultation whereby we can meet periodically and look at the macro issues and see how best we can carry them out without confrontation so that we can get the services out to the general public, who use the facilities.”
Stressing the need to pay attention to personnel matters within the Ministry and its various institutions, Mr. Clarke said: “Sometimes in our eagerness we forget the human resource issues and it appears as though we are at loggerheads.”
In commending the work done by the health sector, the General Secretary noted that the union, itself was hoping to introduce an aspect of health-care through the setting up of a wellness clinic. Mr. Clarke revealed that serious research in that area was currently being undertaken.
He remarked: “…We feel such [a clinic] would be a tremendous help to the community and the civil service as a whole. Last year during our annual conference at our Headquarters at Dalkeith Road, the NUPW indicated to Prime Minister David Thompson, our desire to have such a clinic set up and we are working towards that goal and, as soon as we are in a position we will consult with the Minister and the Ministry of Health officials to see what assistance they could render.”