THA public health fix-it crew down tools

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Faith BYisrael – Photo courtesy THA

No Personnel Protective Equipment (PPEs) as well as lack of tools and equipment were among some of the complaints from employees of the Public Health Department under the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection.

On Monday, the mechanic staff downed their tools in protest at the Signal Hill garage saying their working conditions prevented them from doing their jobs.

Senior welder Sheldon Cooper told the media, “Presently, we’re having a problem. This problem stems from four years ago. PPEs is a problem. Normally at the beginning of the year or the ending of the year, they would issue us five coveralls, five shirts and pants along with a safety boots. Presently, up to today – nothing.”

He said the issue has been raised with those in authority.

“Last week, they gave us a purchase order to go and get six boots. Presently in the garage, there are 14 men. We want to know what happen to the rest of gears, and we’re not accepting it because this is a no-no. This problem has been going on too, too long.”

He said, currently, the unit has to service vehicles from Studley Park Enterprises Ltd (SPEL), the Defence Force, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), THA Division of Education, Research and Technology (DERTech) and Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA), amongst others.

“Is not just public health alone, is Tobago we dealing with and we need you to give us the tools and equipment. Right now, the vehicles that we have presently, we don’t even have a diagnostic testing machine to test the vehicles and them. We have to use our natural head, knowledge and thinking to solve the problems.”

He added: “In the modern age, if you go to even the small garages across Tobago they have lift ramps, but yet we have to go down in pits. About a month ago we were doing some welding below on the pit and fire (erupted); we had to scramble to get outside.

“Fire services came, they told us they deemed it unsafe, and still up to today – nothing.”

He said the facility is equipped with a lunchroom, but it is unfurnished.

“No seating accommodation; we working hours is from 7am to 11 am and 12 noon to 4pm – we can’t even get to sit and eat. Wherever we sit down is where we have to eat – among all the hazards.”

He added: “We’re begging the relevant authorities, please come and help the guys in the public health garage.”

The garage’s foreman Sherlock Waldrop said the issues have been continuously raised with those in authority as it has been affecting the staff over the last four years. He said when the issue of tools and equipment was raised, they were told that it was not budgeted for.

“They are saying that they have no money under the minor equipment vote to purchase a jack or even tools for us to carry out our daily duties.”

Working conditions, he said, remains less than favourable.

Newsday tried to ontact Secretary of Health Dr Faith B Yisrael, but calls and messages were not answered up to press time.