News

More setbacks for vector control activities

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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SOME vector control workers employed to the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) are up in arms about their current work situation, which they say has resulted in reduced and haphazard mosquito eradication activities for the region, and warned that this will have a direct and negative impact on the dengue outbreak now facing the island.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, one worker, who asked not to be named for fear of being “victimised” by his superiors, said workers for the region have been faced with a litany of woes, from defective vehicles to burnout.

“This vehicle here has a starting problem; it is not fit for the road but it is still here,” he told the Observer, pointing to what he said was one of three Toyota Hilux pickups owned by the authority which he alleged had to be pushed by workers at times in order for it to start.

“We have about five vehicles right now [but] five vehicles for Kingston and St Andrew can't work. You can't have 45 men and only five vehicles,” he said.

He said of particular concern was that the Government accepts no liability for the men who ride in the back of the twin cab pickups which are used for vector control activities.

“... They will only take responsibility for those inside the twin-cab vehicle, which is licensed to carry five persons,” he shared.

Yesterday, the vocal worker said people noticing less fogging activities in their areas should look to those in supervisory positions for answers.

“The coordinator not coordinating this thing yah right. We normally do larvicidal work in the communities during the day, doing inspections and so on and then we fog that community in the evening. Now, what happens is that they have deviated from that particular aspect of it so they start to respond in a hopscotch manner because they are responding to directives or requests from politicians for their constituencies, so the normal routine is not being adhered to,” he charged.

“We have rosters that we normally use, so if we are rostered to do the east side of Kingston and St Andrew we cover all of east and come right around, so the places we would normally cover, like Ten Miles and Wicky Wacky (in St Thomas), are places where people harvest water [but] they have deviated from the normal procedure. So what happens is a case where we will be working in Rollington Town and then we are gone all the way to Duhaney Park,” he explained further.

The frustration of the workers, he said, is the perfect recipe for disaster.

“We, as vector control workers, are not too happy with the way things are being done because when the cases pop up, they are going to pop up like sore in the Corporate Area. Schedules are done up but not being followed by supervisors,” he said.

According to the worker, “A lot of victimisation is going on with overtime being used as a whip” with the extra monies taken away from workers at the slightest offence.

The basic pay, he said, is $20,000 per fortnight and overtime can increase it to $30,000.

“That makes a difference, but we are living from pay cheque to pay cheque. The Government of this country needs to do something about our wages because the workers are dealing with chemicals constantly. They stone us when we are fogging communities. I was hit and there was no trauma counselling and I was sent back into the same community. We also do not get a hazard allowance,” he complained further.

The workers are also upset at the health ministry's solution for shoring up its fleet with privately owned vehicles, to assist with fogging activities, for which the vehicle owners get paid, while drivers legitimately employed to the Government sit by.

“Right now there are drivers sitting down here, they don't have any vehicles, while the rest of the regions have been procuring vehicles. We don't have any,” he said, noting that some drivers have been reassigned to other departments.

“We have majority defective vehicles; they are hardly replaced. When we see the defects and write it up the vehicle can end up being out of the system for all two years,” he said.


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