St Kitts – Nevis: What’s the truth? Part 1

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By Special Correspondent

Reports out of Basseterre reveal that for several years, public sector health workers in St Kitts and Nevis have been calling for an increase in pay, risk pay, and an improvement in working conditions. All to no avail.

Staff members report that Junior Minister of Health, Wendy Phipps, last year tried to shut down health care workers by threatening them that the Government could bring in workers from Cuba and pay them half of what the locals were being paid.

Then, again last year, health care workers began hearing from their Ministry that an increase would be forthcoming soon. Some thought that might be little more than political baiting, given that elections were looming (and, we are now advised, is due no later than mid-August, 2020).

They were encouraged nevertheless, political baiting or not. They needed a top-up and improved conditions. But nothing happened. At least, not to date. And the election is no more than three months away. So who knows?

Nurses and other staffers have resigned in alarming numbers, morale is low, workers are stretched and distressed. They need relief and inspiration, little or none of which has been forthcoming.

More recently, with the prospect and threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, they stepped up their request for risk pay. Not in any war-like, aggressive way, it is to be noted.

In response, we are informed that the country’s medical Chief of Staff and Chief Surgeon, Dr Cameron Wilkinson, rubbished the risk pay talk, saying that when these people chose to work in health care, they were fully aware of the risks involved.

That didn’t go down well with the health care workers.

Fast forward to the COVID-19 briefing in Basseterre on April 28, when Dr Wilkinson took it up a  notch, calling on the health care workers to have compassion, to leave the discussion (about money) for after the COVID-19 had passed,  and to observe the country’s motto: Country Above Self. He sought to use himself as an example when he said that his grandson had told him that he (Dr Wilkinson) was his grandson’s hero because every day he was fighting the COVID-19 virus on television.

Many healthcare workers found that example curious, to say the least, asking:

  • Aren’t we on the front line every day?
  • Don’t we spend lots more time with the patients and at the hospital than Dr Wilkinson or any other doctor?
  • Aren’t we the primary caregivers to our patients?
  • Are we perhaps more exposed and at risk than he is?
  • Is our family structure, in terms of material means and social support arrangements, as comfortable as his?

When he leaves work he drives himself straight to his home. When they leave work, the bus drops them on the island main road near to their homes, but not in front of their homes, so they have additional things to worry about between the bus and their homes. And until a week or so ago, they were being transported in a smaller bus which was too small to allow them to comply with the government’s regulation for safe social distancing.

And so, Dr Wilkinson comments pissed off the health care workers, big time.

And when he went on to claim that his position was shared by the majority of doctors, and nurses, and by members of the public with whom he had interacted, he pissed-off the health care workers even more, they claiming that their feedback has been opposite to his.

One outraged health care worker declared that most of the doctors, nurses, and other health care workers that he knows are fully committed to combating the COVID-19 virus and to the sacrifices involved, but asked; whether the good doctor is making any sacrifice that other health care workers are not making, in terms of the emoluments from his Government jobs, his alleged income stream from performing surgeries and other procedures at the Government hospital for which,it is said, he charge patients (the person did not say whether the good doctor pays the government for the use of the facility and its Operating Theatre staff, equipment and materials), and his private practice.

Another health care worker claimed that she and her colleagues face the ultimate risk daily, just like the Police, the Defence Force, Fire and Rescue Service, and the Prison Service.All of these other agencies receive risk pay in St Kitts, while nurses and other health workers don’t.

To be continued …

27 COMMENTS

  1. One of the rights of nurses or any worker is a right to safe and clean environment to work in. Both governments have failed to provide just that. The deplorable conditions of the hospital particularly the psychiatric and Cardin home speaks for itself.

    It is time the health care professionals be advocate not just for patients but for themselves. It’s high time. Under the former administration right up to the present one the former matron made punishment to nurses to work at the cardin home. Now what does that tell you about the cardin home?

    Working with the elderly is all too rewarding but the conditions of the place is the punishment. You have lost so many young nurses in this time. And all they are is RN and staff nurses. Why aren’t there any room for growth? Dr. Wilkinson would need to sit quietly because he is cushioned comfortably. Nurses need to feel that same cushioning. If you put people in a bad environment they will eventually react.

    Stop ignoring the cries of the important healthcare staff. Stop it! It is detestable! Somebody do something.

    • It’s about time health workers are look after. Those in administration care about themselves. I see the nurses working under horrible conditions, no lunch breaks, tired and frustration everywhere. Which hospital is accredited with one nurse per ward or 2 to 30 patients.
      PAY THE NURSES AND DOCTORS THEIR MONEY OR U GUYS STOP HOME.

  2. I am flabbergast at how the system treats our nurses. Healthcare is paramount to any nation or society. Healthcare is a priority. The neglect of the welfare and well being of our health workers and facilities is a breach of security to lives and every citizen. Without proper healthcare, and conducive working conditions we are putting this nation at risk.

    The persons in authority need to stop giving our healthcare workers false promises, as a means of deceit to give them a false sense of hope that they are cared for. Action speaks louder than words, the time for talking is over and the time for acting is now.

    Leave politics for the politicians and parliament, we should not play politics we the livelihoods of others. This is serious business, nursing is not a joke, it comes with great risk. We can’t expect our doctor’s and nurses to go beyond the call of duty so frequently and all we do is give them a pat on the back or some well done speech. Appreciation is shown not just said, covid-19 is a lucid example of nurses risking their lives for an entire nation, working interminable hours, performing an insurmountable task and we think a thank-you is the beginning of addressing their sure needs.

    They are asking for better conditions, so they can continue to help our citizens. And we expect nurses to not be demoralize by the neglect. We want them to muster a positive attitude and put their best foot forward when management is not even doing anything to motivate it’s staff.

    I advocate that nurses get an increase in salary, risk pay and conducive working hours and conditions.

  3. Solidarity with the doctors, nurses, technicians and other health care workers in St. Kitts fighting against the repressive, wrathful and patronizing modern day pharaohs. Stand firm. Dare them to send their spouses and children on the front line with you.

  4. Looks like you all have some masa’s left back in St. Kitts, oppressing you’re nice nurses and others. Fire bun!

    • Seem so for true…can’t believe they always on TV talking about brave healthcare workers and all kinda praise and all kinda thing and they threatening the hard working doctors them talkign about they gona fire them and bring Cubans for half price. Well well well…hypocrites they be.

  5. How is it that this man saying the nurses agree when my cousin is a nurse and she ain’t agree to anything. Better yet, I hear her complaining that this man is to “lie”. I sure he getting money just for this board and work he doing. Has he had any contact with a positive covid-19 case? So how he grandson gone say he is a hero when he ain’t even spending 4 hrs in hospital. I just want to know how much money he getting.

  6. Well well, these people think we kittitians foolish. Dr Wilkinson expect me to belief he ain’t getting paid for this. So why he must get money but not the other health care workers who dealing with this. Why this man got a master and slave mentality.

  7. Everyone in the Ministry of Health has been suffering from poor conditions, poor treatment and POOR PAY for YEARS now. Doctors, nurses, med technicians, radiographers, pharmacy workers, EVERYONE. Slavery-like conditions all around. No overtime pay, a HORRIBLE on call system, no appointments even after years and years of work, ridiculously low wages when Antigua right next door pays nearly DOUBLE the SKN salary and has the same economic conditions, and now no risk pay even when dealing with coronavirus.

    Wilkinson is a TOOL. He thinks that he is the Massa and everybody else is just his brainless cattle that he can treat as he feels. Everyone has a TV. Everyone has internet. Everyone has relatives working in healthcare overseas. ALL OVER THE WORLD people are getting risk pay for dealing with coronavirus to the point in which sometimes the pay is DOUBLED. But this man really sat-up there and thought it appropriate to say that people should work for thanks and to even discuss it at this time, is somehow wrong? REALLY?

    Wilkinson bread done butter after “robbing” the country BLIND for two decades now with his allegedly “corrupt practices” as he “abused” the seat of medical chief of staff of the hospital for allegedly backdoor “deals” and perhaps “charging patients private fees” when using government resources. He also is NOT on the front lines of coronavirus and does not deal with those patients because he is a surgeon and not a medicine doctor. Yet, he is going to sit there and really say with no shame whatsoever, what he said? Ridiculous. He needs to be REMOVED as medical chief of staff. Pandemic or no pandemic. He is the one that is not needed.

    • Well Sah…. “pressure really bus pipe” look how nurses and health care workers have to hide behind a post… that is not even from a local media house… Is it because of fear of VICTIMIZATION? I think so…

      I have been working in the institution and for years, 95% of the time I don’t even get a break, and most days NO lunch.. this is because wards are too busy and Human Resources are lacking…

      As it relates to Dr.Wilkinson, we can’t put all the blame on him, when we knew his main aim is just to make money off of the back of poor people and that is what most specialists Dr’s in JNF are doing… taking advantage of government resources. For example, the radiologist Dr. Clarke works from 9am – 11am and spends 6 hrs in her office.

      A specialists Dr would work for most 2-3 hrs in JNF and the rest of the day in his/her office, Yet collect a 8 hr Government cheque. I am just highlighting the fact that nurses have to manage the system while others take advantage of it.

      To the Doctors, this is not an attack on you but simply a reality check. To be frank, we can’t blame them… BLAME the system and lack of
      1. Proper Protocols
      2. Ethics Committees
      3. Organizational Structures
      4. An attorney needed to guide decision making

      The day nurses start standing up and and speaking loud is the day things will change.

      1. Strike when you NEED to be heard. 2. Use the media houses in St. Kitts-Nevis to speak up and speak loud… to push and mold the system until you see improvements.

      Dr. Wilkinson (although a great surgeon.. Big up yourself) will always be himself… pray for ALL Dr’s to change and have a caring heart and not a Financial Heart 🤣🤣🤣

      FACTS:
      1. Some nurses are still waiting to be appointed after 5 years.. And no one spoke-up for them.
      2. Nurses have died and have had no support from management.
      3. For years Matron Daley sent home at least 40 or more nursing aids and would report to HR that they abandoned their post… no one said anything nor have HR ever investigated these matters.
      4. Psychological abuse is real in JNF.
      5. For years nurses have spoken out and one by one have been threatened.
      6. Politicians put their hands in JNF to give promotions to friends and family, but always WITHDREW that same hand when the nurses ask for HELP.

      Finally, nurses this is a lesson to you. Stop tearing down each other and come together.

  8. I am a staff member of this institution. I am saddened that I have to agree with this post. The environment is deplorable for nurses,doctors,porters, clerks, cashiers and when suggestions have been made over years and they have fallen on deaf ears or perhaps it only matters when it affects the administration personally.

    I hope this is a wake up call to the rest of the staff members who are afraid to speak up in fear of losing their job or what little crumbs of livelihood they cling on to with the bare minimum. The workers are citizens of the country as well. They need to be looked after … medicine is a sacrifice but it should not be taken advantaged of. It’s clear what is happening … completely disgusted.

  9. Stop treating the doctors as not civil servants, appoint them and give them what is for them. Stop demoralising them. It is the very same people above them that neglects them, and they all take the credit. That is unfair. Look out for your brothers and sisters in uniform, same goes with nurses. With all this pandemic happening, what happened to us humans. Smh…

  10. It’s hypocritical to say thank you, yet another to say you are not deserving. Nurses have been working tireless, under environments that has negatively affected there health. If we say thank you, our actions should not contradict our words.To the unsung heroes of St Kitts we appreciate you. And you are part of the country.

    Leaders in authority should realize that and see you as part of the country: realizing that, they have now become self. VERY disappointed by the statements made by the chief medical officer.

  11. Not sure what the laws are there. If strike or protest is not possible, I would find a different line of work. That system will not change without dismantling the government or violence.

  12. Only he who feels it knows it… off course those in-charge don’t care about the healthcare workers. They have they nice comfortable life, making they big money here and there. They don’t remember what it is to catch bus, and don’t have enough money to pay rent and pay bills even though they working hard-long hours. They don’t know man. They feel like the money only for them. The work getting done and it only costing them a fraction of what they should be paying people. BIG UP TO THE BRAVE HEALTH CARE WORKERS OF SKN… WE PROUD OF YOU ALL. NUFF LOVE!!!

  13. Yes. Imagine nurses working with no lunch break scheduled. On the COVID-19 Ward, no fridge to keep something cool for the nurse, and no microwave to warm food. No meal is made available for her. This is St Kits in the year 2020. That nurse is being told to observe Country Above Self and shut-up; and do her work. But the big shots are laughing all the way to the bank. The nurses cannot take no more.

  14. The health workers need their increase now and hazard pay. These people are very important to us.Promises are comfort to fools. Who pocket full don’t care. STOP the nonsense. Enough is enough. World Health Organization please step in and assess the health condition our health care workers are force to function order.The PS was a nurse please, look after your nurses. Remember if you guys sick they are the same ones that have to look after you.

  15. As a front line worker, it is imperative that workers are protected. We are putting our lives at risk just like the arm forces because they are at war with biological warfare. To say thank you is not enough it is time for all stakeholders: the government, chief medical examiner, the matron and the administrative staff of our healthcare nurses recognize the contribution of our nurses and pay homage to them by agreeing to pay them their risk pay. They have more than earned it.

    I have three cousins that are nurses who put their lives every day the on line for the citizens of this country. I am not going to hide behind an anonymous identity. I am going to speak out on this matter, because it is vital that I do so.

    Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote “evil will prevail when good men do nothing”. The word of God says wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities. Nurses I am with you please remember to lift up our God in prayer as Jesus reminded his disciples to pray without ceasing. Aspha’s words in psalm 73:12-28 to way he world seems to work and how wrongs seem to be rewarded…but when he entered the sanctuary of God his outlook changed and he remembered that God will deal with wickedness of the world and it is always good to be with God. Keep the faith nurses, the Lord has confirmed that you can depend on him completely…

  16. Nursing is a profession, not a calling that one should say thank you for service rendered. Like bankers and teachers we study hard. How dare Dr. Wilkinson to try and degrade us. But the leaders of this country has been doing it for years.

    On her first nurses day address Wendy Phipps called us thief’s. So when Wilkinson say we shouldn’t be payed risk pay he meant everybody except he and is crew who done getting money. The thing is no one corrected him, not the prime minister, the PS for health, or even the senior health minister Mr Hamilton.

    Nurses, doctors, maid, lab and x-ray tech we deserve to be payed. A message was released from the Matron saying the PS coming to have meeting with the nurses Tuesday. But let her come, I know Wendy Phipps coming as well. But we will not be intimidated, we will not be silenced. Remember to be careful with what you say when you come meeting because you will be monitored.

    • Why should one be careful in what he/she says … because of fear of being monitored?
      Encourage your nurses to be professional and respectful when addressing authority but NEVER be careful.
      Was Wendy careful when she called them thieves or was Wilkinson?
      These people have no respect or regard for nurses. It is election time so after 5 long years … a raise in pay is coming your way..🤣🤣🤣
      Be smart.. the ball is in your court… ensure you association is present … cause the Nursing Council – you all pay remained sleeping for a decade NOW

  17. I hope that when they say healthcare workers must work for thanks and must stop thinking bout money that they themselves are not carrying home nothing extra for “fighting COVID-19 on TV”… hmm

  18. I see no actions still…. I’m tired of meetings, come with a proposal. Stop speaking and show us. Actions speak louder than words. For doctors nurses pharmacist porters clerks.

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