GPHC frontline workers receiving risk allowances

− Hospital administration continues to take measures to protect workers

More than 250 health workers employed at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation have been receiving risk allowance for working directly in the line of care and treatment of COVID-19 patients.

This was revealed by Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation, Brigadier (Ret’d) George Lewis in a joint interview with Minister of Health, Hon. Frank Anthony on Friday.

The CEO explained that before the onset of COVID-19, just about 20 persons on the hospital’s payroll were receiving risk allowance and these were those who worked in the infectious diseases’ wards and in the psychiatric ward.

Chief Executive Officer, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, Brigadier Retired, George Lewis

Since the advent of COVID-19 in March risk allowances have been paid to different categories of staff and even before our first case about 20 persons were getting risk allowance now, we are paying risk allowance to 257 members of staff…,” he explained.

Mr. Lewis said that the Guyana Public Service Union has notified the hospital that health workers will take strike action over risk allowances. It was further explained that the hospital is in full compliance with a circular issued by the Public Service Ministry in 2019 that ensure only certain categories of health workers receive risk allowance.

Lewis said,

“… GPSU is saying all healthcare workers should receive risk allowance but that circular does not allow us to do that.”

The GPSU had expressed concerns over rumours that at least two healthcare providers from the hospital died after being exposed and testing positive for COVID-19 but the CEO said that to date, none of the Corporation’s staff has died as a result of COVID-19.

Nurses and other health workers have been protesting for the allowance, better salaries, and benefits. The CEO noted that the industrial action did not conform with the lawful procedure for essential workers and was therefore illegal.

Mr. Lewis said GPHC administration had met the GPSU in April and several agreements were made. Those include the provision of free transportation for staff to and from work, provision of meals, and free accommodation at the staff quarters in Waterloo Street.

These were all agreed on in an effort to protect and minimise exposure to COVID-19 while ensuring that the staff protect their families and other citizens.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, commenting on this said,

“We would not want to put any nurse or any of our healthcare workers at the GPHC or any other institution in jeopardy. That is not what we are here for. We have made a consorted effort to acquire PPEs, masks, gloves. We do have enough supplies for our frontline workers because we recognise if they get sick then they can’t deliver care.”

The minister acknowledged the importance of these front liners and opened a line of discussion where health workers are free to express their concerns to their superiors, including him.

“At this point during the pandemic, they are the key and pivotal persons that we have to listen to and to make sure that services work because if we don’t have these services working then we are putting a lot of people in harm’s way,” the Minister concluded.