THE hospitals are full of COVID patients, we are in the middle of a surge that has already seen us have the record number of cases in a single day… and hospital staff are choosing this moment to stage industrial action.
Whether they have a cause for complaint or not, this is hardly the time when all hands are needed on deck.
As one healthcare professional said after yesterday’s apparent sick-out, and with the prospect of an even wider stoppage today, “It’s going to be a long weekend.”
It is estimated that up to 200 workers did not show up to work yesterday. The reason? They are unhappy after not receiving honorariums.
Frontline workers had been promised their service at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic would be rewarded with the payment of an honorarium – and on Tuesday Health Minister Renward Wells said all those had now been paid. This left a number of workers looking at their pay packets and saying well, where’s our share?
But were they really entitled to such a payment in the first place? The decisions on who would get the honorariums were made by supervisors – so the quarrel shouldn’t be with the government, and certainly shouldn’t be affecting patients. You want to know why you weren’t picked? Ask your boss.
The aim of the payment was to reward those who stepped up when many were reluctant. If you weren’t one of those, you already know the answer over whether you should have the payment or not.
Meanwhile, hospitals were left to struggle on yesterday – the very opposite of stepping up to help. Not one worker showed up at the morgue yesterday at Princess Margaret Hospital. Any relative of someone who died yesterday will have no sympathy, we imagine, with people refusing to work while their loved one’s body remains unattended.
There appears to be some confusion over who gets to be classed as a frontline worker – and why – but surely this question has been raised before now.
This sounds like a combination of bad communication and people wanting a piece of the pie. Either way, this kind of action at this, the worst possible time for it to take place, is no way to win public support.
In this column on Wednesday, we criticised the government for a lack of transparency. The Auditor General had asked for ownership details of the companies that received COVID-related contracts – and hadn’t received them.
It is only fair then that we praise the government – cautiously – for seemingly trying to remedy that.
The Attorney General, Carl Bethel, suggests that the rules were being followed correctly by the strict letter of the law, but that those regulations could change as early as today so that the right answers can indeed be given.
Whether it was an oversight, a loophole, or whatever the case, fixing it so that there is clarity is a good thing, and doing so with speed is commendable.
We will reserve our full praise, however, for when the job is done – and when the public can see who got the money, and whether it was all above board.
Progress, yes. Is the matter resolved? Not yet. Watch this space.
And let’s see what happens in a future Auditor General report – and if the auditor is able to share the information once he is given access, or whether the veil of secrecy remains for the public.