Minister Bernard speaks on ultimatum from health professionals coalition
The Belize Coalition of Medical Professionals has raised a number of concerns via a press release on November 11. Among those issues was a shortage of supplies, pensions and taxes for healthcare workers. The release called on the ministries of Public Service and Labour to address those issues within seven days. Yesterday, Minister of Health and Wellness Kevin Bernard was asked about that. Here’s what he had to say.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Back in October in fact back in September a letter was sent to us by the Karl Heusner Union President which is Mr. Baird. We had at the time I had to travel out of the country to Washington to attend the PAHO Sanitary Conference and I had informed him that I will not be available at that moment. I was prepared to attend virtually at another meeting but that’s when it got the agenda, the last minute agenda so we asked if we could reconsider a new date. That date was set for Monday on the 14th so we were ready, we were prepared. I got a text from Mr. Baird late night Sunday night stating that they were going to defer this meeting. But let me also point out to you that I today understood from the nursing association they were all on their way to this meeting just to be told that the meeting is deferred. The decision was taken obviously and I assume by Mr. Baird himself. We got an e-mail early Monday morning myself and the Prime Minister , an e-mail not an attached letter or a signed letter but an e-mail stating its demands because it’s not coming from the Medical and Dental Association. It was not written in conjunction with the Nurses Association of Belize but it was written directly from Mr. Baird the president of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Union Authority and so we – it begs the question what is really the agenda behind all of this and I’m not going to get into that but I am prepared as I said and I will say it here again and I repeated myself in an official letter I responded to his e-mail that we are prepared to sit down with the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Union to sit down and hear what they have to say.”
And despite his views on Andrew Baird, the president of the KHMHA Workers’ Union, Minister Bernard says that the Ministry is willing to meet with the organisations to discuss these pressing issues within the health system.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “The Nursing Association of Belize covers all nurses. Now generally they have concerns that is related to nursing and their staffing and so forth but there are also issues that KHMH has separately. We cannot mix KHMH matters with nursing matters at the same time how could Mr. Baird who is writing on behalf of he claims the coalition which I understand was not the case could be putting in things that have no pertinent issue on KHMH? KHMH is a statutory body they’re governed by a separate system under the Labor Act, they don’t fall under the public service regulation and so the whole issue about salary scale is totally different from the public sector so we could get into all of these details. They referred in there at about a circular 6 but we are addressing that matter but that has nothing to do with KHMH staff that has to do with the public service. Then they’re talking about the pension and insurance schemes. Those are discussions we have to have. And we are saying to them but it is something also that I want to point out that KHMH has a board. Mr Baird sits on that board and I understand from the board members that never has he raised the same concerns to the board. You would have expected that you’re representing your staff at KHMH as the union rep you would take that matter to management first. You’re not satisfied with management then you go to the board. If you’re still not getting nowhere with the board then you reach out to us but do you see and then we are the regulator but KHMH is its sole authority and so we have to define the difference here. But coming directly to us to ask us to intervene without even having gone through the necessary channels begs the question and so I understand the nature of the discussion that they would want to have like I said I am prepared to meet with the union.”
The press release gave a 7-day deadline, which expires tomorrow. We will see if the coalition will take the necessary actions against the failing state of the country’s healthcare system as planned.