Acting Minister for Health has assured me they will not interfere with the rights of nurses – PM

Acting Minister for Health has assured me they will not interfere with the rights of nurses – PM

By Navitalai Naivalurua
Friday 25/08/2023
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka. Image: Fijian Government

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka says he has been assured by the Acting Minister for Health and Home Affairs Filimoni Vosarogo that they will not interfere with the rights of the nurses.

While speaking from Port Vila in Vanuatu, Rabuka says he had to cut short his worship in Cawa Church, Nadi on Sunday when he was informed of a planned strike by the nurses.

He says it wasn’t a coded message, but it was indicating that there will be a strike.

The Prime Minister says they convened an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday with the members that were in the country, where they dealt with the subject.

Rabuka adds that Vosarogo and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Biman Prasad met with the Fiji Nursing Association executives to make sure that the nurses' pay is going to be paid out.

Vosarogo with the Permanent Secretary of Health Dr James Fong met with the executives from the Fiji Nursing Association in relation to the nurses' concerns on Wednesday.

The FNA executives had called for the resignation of Doctor Fong, Chief Nurse, Colleen Wilson and Human Resource Director, Joe Fuata.

There were also plans for a nurses protest due to the mass resignations, nurses' work and pay conditions and the issues relating to health facilities.

Vosarogo says they had a great meeting between the executives of the Fiji Nurses Association and executives of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

He says they had a hard talk and everything was laid on the table, historical, systemic, and legacy issues of the past that needed consideration, urgent or otherwise.

The Acting Minister says staff of the Ministry and the Ministry of Finance are working through to ensure that the pay for nurses reflecting their new pay backdated to 1st August is accurately reflected in their pay slips and in what they get.

He adds any anomalies will be addressed by the Ministry in the subsequent pay, and the nurses are urged to report any anomaly that they find in their pay.

The Acting Minister says this has been assured to the FNA executives by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad.

Vosarogo says the parties were reminded that consultation and continued dialogue on the most important things concerning nurses should be done periodically and consistently.

He says they invite dissonance when they forget the importance of continued dialogue and officials of government need to understand that they must work with stakeholders who serve as a support mechanism for the common good of the nation, and when they choose to discard genuine arms length dialogue, systemic strains result, and before we know it, a crisis is inevitable.

He further says the key is fixing it when you have the time and the opportunity to do so, and they were able to do part of that on Wednesday.

He says the Ministry and the FNA have agreed to meet again in the next 14 days to reflect on Wednesday's meeting outcomes and to then map a way of a periodic scheduled meetings to continuously monitor the issues that will be discussed 14 days from now.

He also says that he urged the parties to continue to talk, and if they have not talked periodically in the past, they have to do that now.

The Acting Minister says it is for the well-being and welfare of nurses as they are the frontline personnel who receive the sick of our nation and care for them.

He says government may not be able to do it all at once, but they can map a future plan of action for them, one that they know and understand that would allow them to enjoy working in the conditions they are exposed to.

The FNA held a meeting earlier this week where the executives stressed to their members about their roles and responsibilities and that their work should not be interrupted by what is happening now.

Association General Secretary Filomena Talawadua says they have asked their members to wait patiently and follow the process that is supposed to be followed.

Talawadua says dialogue is the best solution.

When questioned if the Association had discussed about going on a strike, Talawadua says this was not part of their discussions, and they have told their members to wait patiently and follow the process.

She is also grateful to the government for opening the doors to dialogue and allocating money for nurses in the 2023/2024 national budget.

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