Cornwall Regional lab techs strike
Lab technicians at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay, St James went on strike yesterday morning, protesting what they call unhealthy and unsafe working conditions and threatening not to return to work until the hospital's management addressed their concerns.
According to St Patrice Ennis, general secretary of the Union of Technical Administrative and Supervisory Personnel, the technicians have had to contend with cramped working quarters, lack of proper bathroom facilities, and the risk of contaminated samples, among other issues.
"Since September of last year, the ventilation system has been emitting noxious fumes which have caused the workers to fall ill, and they have complained of headaches, itching, and all sorts of medical ailments. This is known to the management of the hospital, and they (workers) have written to them about the conditions under which they have been working," said Ennis.
Area under construction
"What the hospital has done in response is to relocate them to an area which was under construction for an Ebola outbreak, and was not fully completed. It is a confined space, persons are stumbling over each other, they have no proper bathroom facilities in many of the areas because it has not been properly prepared, and it is hot; it is not an area for laboratory work."
Ennis added that part of the danger to the workers comes from the risk of exposure to the samples they handle regularly, including HIV-positive ones.
"Where they conduct any analysis on HIV-positive samples, the face basin does not work, and they cannot wash their hands after conducting any such analysis on those samples. So it compromises the integrity of the work in the lab," said Ennis. "The proximity of samples to each other also compromises the integrity of the lab, because here they handle all kinds of samples and body fluids, which also endangers the health of the staff."
Efforts to contact Anthony Smikle, the chief executive officer at CRH, for a response were unsuccessful, as he was said to be in a meeting.