With an increase in the number of returning nationals to this country last weekend, additional pressures will be put on the nation’s health personnel, who have been doing yeoman service in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been a difficult time for these professionals and their families. As frontline healthcare professionals, they have been in the shooting range so to speak of COVID-19, coming in direct contact with those who test positive for the virus and those who are quarantined.
No less a person than the prime minister himself has paid tribute to the yeoman service being done by healthcare professionals during the pandemic.
One would have thought that given the role these professionals played in ensuring the country flattened the COVID curve, the state would have considered some kind of financial compensation for the risks they put themselves and their families at to ensure the country staved off the virus.
Last week following a Cabinet meeting, Education Minister Anthony Garcia announced a $20 million payout was approved for teachers, and principals required to attend classes from July 20 to August 20 to get students ready for the rescheduled August 20 SEA examination.
That must have been a slap in the face for healthcare professionals, since it is no secret teachers have been on paid vacation since the education system was shut down in March and the ministry was unable to compel all of them to conduct online classes with their charges to fill the void.
While we salute the teachers who have been ensuring students are indeed educated during the COVID measures, we ask the Government why the nation’s healthcare workers have not received similar consideration.
Last Thursday, Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) president Idi Stuart warned that hospitals could become ghost towns if the state did not address the healthcare workers’ COVID emergency compensation concerns. Mr Stuart said the nurses were understandably upset at the announcement of stipends to teachers, especially given their direct impact in the COVID fight.
In late April, following the death of a nurse attached to the COVID unit at the Caura Hospital, the TTRNA asked the Government to consider a $1 million payout in the event any nurse loses their life during the pandemic.
The prime minister, responding to a question from the Opposition in the Parliament at that time, said no consideration was being given by the Government to offer any additional compensation to healthcare workers.
However, more than a month later, the PM must realise this is about treating with a group of professionals who played a huge part in the COVID fight.
Dr Rowley did assure, however, that frontline healthcare workers would receive the “best that the country has to afford.” Without doubt, with the largesse now promised to teachers, perhaps with an eye on forthcoming general elections, health care workers would be looking with interest to see what the country can afford them. After, all they also form part of the electorate.