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Ferguson says nurses' statutory deduction 'issues' being worked out

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer writer hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2014    

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HEALTH Minister, Dr Fenton Ferguson has assured public sector nurses that issues concerning their statutory and other deductions are being sorted out.

The assurance came Monday amidst growing concerns among nurses and other public sector workers at the length of time it was taking Government to pay over their monthly deductions, which include mortgage, car loan, and insurance payments.

"I've been in touch with the Ministry of Finance and in touch with Minister Dalley and Minister Phillips to see how quickly we can resolve those issues," he told the nurses while addressing a media briefing to launch International Nurses Day and the upcoming Nurses Week at the Knutsford Court Hotel.

"I have read the Riot Act, and I know that persons' statutory deductions are part of their pay and should not be tampered with," Ferguson added.

Last week, Opposition spokesman on finance and planning, Audley Shaw accused the Government of withholding the deductions from public sector workers for its housekeeping and cash flow needs.

"What the Government is doing is passing IMF tests and financing its housekeeping operations using the mortgage payments and car loan payments and insurance payments of ordinary public sector workers, and using it as cash flow. It is outrageous. It is totally unacceptable," Shaw told the briefing which followed the weekly meeting of the JLP's shadow Cabinet.

Meanwhile, scores of nurses turned out for Monday's celebration and launch under the theme 'Nurses: A force for change, a vital resource for health'. President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Anthonette Patterson-Bartley, emphasised the role nurses play in helping to meet developmental goals.

"Nurses occupy the largest segment of health professionals in the world. There is no doubt that nurses are key to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals," she said. "Irrefutably, nurses are the gatekeepers to the health sector, and as such are strategically poised to implement the most innovative ways to offer health-care services."

In keeping with the theme, Peter Chin, managing director of LASCO Distributors Limited, said part of the challenge the health sector faces is administering free health care. He, however, said that LASCO will continue to play its part in assisting the nurses to effect change.

"We know that nurses have a critical role to play in helping us to maintain a healthy nation. This will ensure that Jamaicans benefit more from services and resources available to all; and resulting in healthier families and a healthy nation," he said.

Guest speaker Lady Allen, wife of Governor General Sir Patrick, emphasised the need for 'active silence' in trying to effect change.

"I often tell students that silence can be active. The talkers are not necessarily the ones who make changes," Allen said.

"We do not have to take to the streets, bearing placards always to be heard. Standing still can be more powerful than words. When your colleagues are not doing what is right; stand up for what is right, when others are ordinary, you must be extraordinary," she added.

Nurses Week will be observed from July 13 to 19 under the same theme as Nurses Day.

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