MSJMC Amendment Bill Gets Parliamentary Approval

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Tuesday 24th April, 2018 –The Minister of Health and Wellness has highlighted what he describes as “Misinformation” that surrounded the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (Amendment) Bill 2018, to which adjustments were made and subsequently approved by the House of Representatives earlier today.

The bill seeks to bring an end to the secondment of public officers to the employment of the board and to complete the transition of MSJMC to a state of the art public hospital under the management of the board.

While nurses and other critical care workers picketed outside the Parliament fearing the adjustments to the Act would jeopardize the jobs of workers who were seconded to MSJMC from Holberton Hospital, inside the Parliamentary Chamber Minister Molwyn Joseph justified the tabling of the Bill as an “important policy decision.”

Minister Joseph in stating it is long overdue and to the benefit of all questioned why it took this long for section 29 of the law to be implemented, a section that deals with the transitioning of Holberton employees to MSJMC.

The health minister contends the misinterpretation of the amendments may have stemmed from the language in which they were written, which ultimately caused anxiety among a cross section of the hospital staff.

He says with a shortage of nurses in Antigua and Barbuda, it is difficult to comprehend why government would attempt to get rid of the very nurses they depend on.

Those who wish to be part of the MSJMC team once the secondment has ended will be afforded the opportunity to write to the authorities indicating their intention no later than 30 days after the secondment according to the amendments.

In allaying the fears of the hospital staff, the health minister says even with the transition, the benefits of the healthcare workers are guaranteed.

Minister Joseph took umbrage to the fact that despite the government’s efforts, the information was twisted. But he described the clarification as a “teachable moment” for all involved.

The health minister told the house he will be available next week, if further clarification on the issue is needed.

The bill was adopted with minor amendments.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne says the intention was never to create difficulties for healthcare workers.

While admitting changes were made to the MSJMC (Amendment) Bill, 2018 as a result of public discourse, Prime Minister Browne says the language is what created the misunderstanding.

He wants all parties to now move beyond the issues.