Last Updated on Monday, 17 July 2023, 8:48 by Denis Chabrol
Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Aubrey Norton on Sunday night poured cold water on government’s short-term plan to bring in Cuban nurses to grapple with a serious shortage of that category of health workers facing Guyana.
Addressing a public meeting at the Stabroek Market Square to celebrate its retention of its stronghold in the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections (LGE), Mr Norton said government could have staved off the shortage by paying the nurses more. “You now telling us that you are going to bring nurses from overseas. The damn fools must know if they pay the nurses, they will stay here and we are saying to you that, as a political party, we believe our workers must be properly treated,” he said. In that regard, Mr Norton said if APNU is elected at the 2025 general and regional elections, a survey would be conducted to determine “the minimum livable income” and make every effort to pay it.
Last December, the Guyana government increased the salaries of all categories of health workers. Nurse aides and nursing assistants now earn GY$100,000 annually; staff nurses GY$169,438 and staff nurse/midwives GY$195,000.
He said if the government weeded out a fraction of the 25 percent corruption in the economy, government would be able to pay workers increased salaries and reduce poverty. “It doesn’t need 25 percent of the economy to give our people better wages, to give our people better water,” he added.
Mr Norton flayed the government for building five new specialty hospitals in the absence of health care workers. “They don’t have anybody to put in the hospitals. They got to be a fool. We need to be training our people so that they can operate in the existing hospitals and improve the quality of healthcare in those hospitals. There is little or no sense in having 10 more specialty hospitals but when you go in there are no specialists,” he said.
Officials said Guyana’s public health sect0r is short of about 1,300 nurses, largely due to migration of Guyanese nurses to the United States, Canada and Britain as well as other Caribbean nations whose nurses are also taking up jobs in North America and Europe.
President Irfaan Ali last week urged Canada to accredit Guyana’s nursing schools to train sufficient nurses for local employment and the Canadian job market. The Guyanese leader had said that Guyana’s medium to long-term plan is to train more nurses for both the Guyanese and foreign markets.
He reiterated previously stated promises that government would increase the income tax threshold to GY$150,000 per month to increase the amount of money they would have to spend, activate Distinguished Economics Professor Clive Thomas’ proposal to give each household GY$1 million per month from oil revenues, implement a rent-to-own housing programme, and subsidise feed for poultry farmers to produce chicken at a reasonable price. “We say to you an APNU government will put in places policies and projects to ensure the money meets the people,” said Mr Norton who is also Guyana’s Opposition Leader.
Mr Norton dismissed Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo’s assertion that if wages and salaries are increased beyond a certain level that would fuel inflation. Instead, Mr Norton said if production is increased there would be no inflation.
He said an APNU-led administration would also invest heavily in the production of healthy and cheap foods. “You talk about bringing chicken from Brazil when we have the world of land and human resources; all we need to do is training,” he said.