Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton on Tuesday (May 12) said that about 1,200 healthcare workers will be hired to deal with the increased demands on the public health sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a special select committee virtual meeting, Tufton said the government had approved funding for the additional staff needed.
“There is no doubt and it would be foolhardy for any of us to think the stresses that existed prior to COVID are not doubled with COVID, as it relates to all the work that our practitioners have to do, including our public health workers,” said Tufton.
“Hence, the approval of the government for the additional staff…so we can complement or support those who are currently in the field.”– Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton
Tufton explained that public health workers were juggling between fighting COVID-19 and their regular duties, which he said has resulted in the less than optimal performance of the sector.
“So we’ve pulled persons from a parish and assigned them to another parish, for example, it has resulted- no doubt – in the less than optimal performance of our other functions because of the reassignments that have had to take place,” added Tufton.
Tufton said that recognising the burden of the juggling act, the Ministry of Finance had approved additional funds to hire more workers.
“We are bordering on burnout in some instances because persons have to work long hours. Hence, the approval of the government for the additional staff, recognising that this journey is not short-term and we are now actively recruiting so we can complement or support those who are currently in the field; so the other work can go on while we do what we have to do,” said Tufton.
Opposition spokesperson on health, Dr Morais Guy, used the occasion to question whether the additional staff complement would be sufficient enough to address the burnout issue.
“You’re missing the point I am making, with due respect. I am only saying that the 1,000 that the CMO (chief medical officer) mentioned, the vast majority of them are doing work in the hospital and in the community health care centers. Therefore, if you remove them from the hospitals to do other work as you are suggesting now, then it would impact on the services offered in the hospital. Therefore, even if you include the 1,200 that you are proposing to recruit over the next 12 months, the reality is that you may not have as much as you were hoping to add to that 1,000 that is out there already. That’s the point I am making,” said Guy.
Tufton responded “You and I are not saying anything different. Of course, it is going to affect the numbers, which is why we are getting the additional 1,200 – it will. That’s why we have to beef up and get the additional numbers but should the need arise we have to deploy and redeploy; that’s the point I think we are making but your point is taken.”