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Ministry of Health paying king’s ransom to keep staff amid pandemic; rise in infections “concerning”

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Posted: Monday, August 31, 2020. 12:50 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Ministry of Health has postponed various moves to retire and leave the Public Service and is digging up funds to pay workers due to COVID-19, CEO Dr. George Gough explained during Friday’s prime ministerial press briefing.

The Prime Minister’s promise of an ex gratia payment will come through at the end of September once the list of workers is compiled, Dr. Gough announced; the monies were obtained as confirmed through Financial Secretary Joseph Waight from Government coffers. In the meantime, the Ministry is paying up to 40 hours overtime for workers in June, July and August, up from 20.

Fourteen members of staff in the Northern Health Region; 19 in the Central Health Region; several in the Western Health Region; and 12 in the Southern Health Region have been kept on staff with holiday pay over the last two months, and temporary hires from Pan American Health Organization and returning medical students from Cuba round out the team.

But a rise in infections among these frontline workers is causing concern, Dr. Gough noted.

Some thirty-eight health care workers and forty-two police and security officers are infected – “it is the lab technician; it is the pharmacist; it is the receptionist; it is the administrator; it is the public health inspector – everybody is exposed, so everyone possible within the health care team has somebody representing them in a positive note, so we are very, very concerned,” Dr. Gough said.

It has led the Ministry to obtain more N95 surgical masks as “a layer of extra protection” for those working on obtaining flu swabs and providing patient care in hospitals and clinics.

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