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Nurses bow to pressure - Sickout fizzling out

By Yvonne Webb, Trinidad Guardian, 20 June 2000

THE seven-day sick-out by nurses has not garnered the kind of response anticipated. Vishnu Bhim, representative of the nurses section of the Public Services Association (PSA), said it has not translated into the success they expected, because their members are bowing to all kinds of pressures.

In light of Government's unwavering stance in the row, the PSA embarked on a seven-day sickout, effective June 14, to force a settlement.

In an interview with the Guardian yesterday, Bhim described the response to the PSA's move as mixed.

"Overall, most of the health centres remained closed. We have had more than a 75 per cent response.

"The major health institutions, Port-of-Spain and St Ann's, have been hard-hit and almost grinding to a halt. San Fernando is not as bad. A lot of people have gone out to work.

"My personal check in the wards revealed that of the nurses rostered for duty on the daylight shift for Friday, approximately 25 persons stayed away."

Bhim said people have offered a lot of reasons and excuses for not responding more positively. One of them being advanced is that doctors are unwilling to issue sick leave certificates for a straight seven days. Others say the action is too harsh.

Bhim confirmed nurses have told them a few days may be acceptable, but seven days is too harsh.

Noting wages were deducted from many nurses' salaries last month, he said the membership was buckling to pressure from their families.

"So all of these factors are playing into the action, but the fact remains, all the points we have made in the protest over the past three months, neither the Government nor the regional health authorities (RHAs) have denied we have a just cause."

He explained: "When we say the conditions at the hospitals are bad, they have not denied it is bad.

"When we said there is a shortage of nurses, they have not denied that. "When we say the nurses are underpaid, they have not denied that. The ridiculous thing is the insensitive manner in which it is being dealt with.

"When you see on national television, a citizen of this country lying on the floor of the hospital on a piece of paper, I cannot understand how the leader of the nation could be at ease with himself when he sees that.

17th June 2000