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Volunteer nurses at MCMH are getting a stipend, not salary – PM Gonsalves

Volunteer nurses at MCMH are getting a stipend, not salary – PM Gonsalves

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has reemphasised that the $1,000 to be paid to each of the 46 nurses volunteering at Milton Cato Memorial Hospital is a stipend — not a salary.{{more}}

Gonsalves told Parliament last week that Cabinet had approved a proposal by Minister of Health, Clayton Burgin, that the nurses, who recently completed degrees in Cuba, get a stipend of $500 for November and December, respectively.

The prime minister appeared on state radio Monday night for a national consultation ahead of the Budget and a caller said the nurses were being treated like full-time staff.

“… From the time you say about the 500 [dollars], they set duty for them. My daughter just got in the house here. They set duty for them and say they have to work like the regular nurses. That’s why I called to get this thing clarified,” the female caller said.

She further told the prime minister that other nurses were telling the volunteers that they are to receive a salary.

“The stipend is really to say transportation, buy a meal,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.

“But clearly, that can’t be a salary. It is what is it: a stipend. These persons aren’t permanently on the staff; they are down there to assist others. That’s what they are doing,” Gonsalves further said in response to the caller.

He said it is “unfortunate” that “any nurse” would tell the volunteers that they are receiving a salary.

“I can understand if they say ‘You are volunteering for these hours. During that time, these are you here, these are your duties.’ Because you must have structure. You can’t just go down there and hang around,” the prime minister further said.

“The Chief Nursing Officer and the Minister of Health will work out those things with the Hospital Administrator. And, I am sure that, as always, these problems will be sorted out amicably,” he told the caller.

He said the decision to give the volunteers the stipend came after he was told they were paying their own transportation and even volunteering to work at night.

Gonsalves said that in the New Year, his government would see how many vacancies arise for nurses.

He, however, added that Barbados and Trinidad are interested in employing them and that Trinidad wanted to employ all 46.

He said the nurses, having lived in Cuba for five years, are fluent in Spanish. He further said they have medical and information technology skills.

“So these are highly trained persons both in respect of the traditional nursing and also as graduates with nursing degrees,” he said. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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