Close to 75 ancillary workers staged a sit-in protest at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) yesterday.
The action was triggered by the workers' sheer frustration at the management of the North Central Regional Health Authority's (NCRHA) inability to correct the deplorable conditions under which they work and Health Minister Fuad Khan's continuous insistence that the workers accept the public/private partnership as the way forward for the health sector.
Motivated by "aggravation", the workers assembled in the waiting area of the hospital's main entrance just after 2 p.m. and began chanting "solidarity forever" in what they described as "a peaceful demonstration". But less than 45 minutes later, members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service swooped down on them and asked that they desist as they were obstructing patients.
Chairman of the EWMSC section of the Public Services Association (PSA), Keith Bailey, however refuted those claims, saying patients were still being attended to.
"We were not hampering the flow of traffic or disturbing anyone, we were simply sitting and singing as a form of demonstration in light of the all the things that have been happening.
"The fact that the police came here was a sign of panic by the management, there was no mode of physical disturbances," he said.
Bailey added that while many might not have seen the benefit of the protest, it had prompted NCRHA management to take notice and "called a meeting with the PSA".
The PSA workers, incensed by management's failure to improve working conditions as well as update their National Insurance contributions, have been protesting for close to two weeks now using sick-outs.
"They initially told us we would meet (on Wednesday) but then they cancelled that meeting and said they would call us (today) and let us know when a meeting would take place," he said.
Meanwhile, other workers, who all requested anonymity, said they were "fed up of the treatment given to them by management".
One worker said they were being blamed for sabotaging the cranial drill used by the neurosurgeons when in fact, "it was the doctors at Port of Spain (General Hospital) who submerged it in water and damaged it because they did not know how to clean it".
"Now, if management had proper training for staff in place, you think that would have happened?" he asked.
Another worker said for years they had been working under deplorable conditions and "management come management go, nothing changes".
"If they want to fix anything, they need to fix the way they manage...because now that we come out to express our frustration, they quick to say privatise," he said.
The workers claimed that cleaning services at the hospital were already privatised but yet "the toilets are dirty, and you never have hand sanitiser or toilet paper".
"What would happen when everything else gets privatised," they asked.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan called on the PSA to have reasoning with regard to the Public/Private Partnership (PPP) expression of interest, saying that if nothing is done, "20 years down the road the system is going to be worse".
However, Bailey said the PSA was not going to waver in its view that services could improve without privatisation, providing management "gets it act together".