MIDWIFERY operations at some health centres were affected for a second day as professionals in that sector continued a sick-out on Tuesday in protest against anomalies in the recently settled wage agreement with the Government.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said Tuesday that efforts were being made to address the concerns of the midwives.
"We have lost critical downtime because they are an important part of our team. We have to try and find a solution in the meantime. My understanding is that they will be out until today [Wednesday]," Tufton said during his address at the opening ceremony for a CT-scan suite at University Hospital of the West Indies.
"More importantly, some of their concerns that they have need to be addressed, and we will play our part in trying to address those concerns. It does affect us. Others can perform their function, but they are important. We don't want this kind of downtime for any extended period of time," he said.
Details regarding the sick-out were shared by Midwives Association Vice-President Nichole Smart, who said the action was taken because they are not pleased with their take-home pay, which, she said, is not in line with wages that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service had promised.
"All the checks that we have done are showing that the clients are being rescheduled. The clinics are not being held. We have clients complaining and other staff telling us that the clinics are rescheduled and most of it is supposed to be done by the community health aid," she told the Jamaica Observer.
"I know, for Hanover, all clinics were cancelled yesterday [Monday] and today [Tuesday]. In other parishes they are being rescheduled," she added.
Asked when the sick-out is expected to end, Smart said, "Until we are well. We are emotionally, physically, mentally, psychologically sick."
"The finance minister had promised that no one would be in a lesser state than before. Maybe a few midwives at hospitals may not be seriously challenged but most of us are. The ministry did two things – showed us a figure when we were trying to negotiate, and they failed to tell us that it would span across three years. The next thing they did was rolled the upkeep into your salary and everything is taxed," Smart said.
"So, for example, now, instead of going home with $70,000, you are going home with $60,000 or $50,000, and this is right across the three levels of midwifery board. We are all feeling it. We are going home with less than before, and we know what is happening with the economic status, and we are all being pressured with a salary less and everything is going up. We can't survive like this," Smart said, and claimed that several calls and letters sent to the finance ministry have proved pointless.
At the same time, regional director for the South East Regional Health Authority Errol Greene told the Observer that 98 per cent of the midwifery workers called in sick, leading to services being scaled down at several health centres.
"I know that they are calling in sick across the region and the impact is that we have had to close some services at the mother and child services at Operation Friendship Clinic, Seaview Gardens Health Centre, Stony Hill Health Centre, and Lawrence Tavern Health Centre as a result," said Greene.
Checks made at a few of the health centres revealed empty benches and uncrowded waiting areas as the Observer was told that appointments were rescheduled.