The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) said yesterday that it will legally challenge the decision by the authorities to lock out nurses and other government employees who have not been vaccinated or refuse to take a PCR test for the novel coronavirus.
GPSU Vice-President Dawn Gardner, flanked by at least 30 nurses and other workers near Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), said the union would be filing the necessary legal documents later this week.
Last week, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony told reporters that senior GPHC staff members and the Linden Hospital Complex have been working to educate healthcare workers on the importance of being vaccinated.
“We are hopeful that eventually they will come around and understand that it is important for them to protect their own health, even if they only do it for that reason,” Anthony said.
Earlier this month, Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo expressed disappointment with the vaccine hesitancy being displayed by some doctors and nurses.
“Doctors and nurses are in a science-based field. How could you be in a science-based field and then have these weird views about vaccines? It is almost unacceptable. And teachers? First of all, they should be teaching; they should be educated, reading, and then they succumb to rumours and unsubstantiated views?” Jagdeo asked incredulously.
Gardner told reporters that the proposed legal action would challenge the alleged breach of “the various laws, the necessary laws” that protect workers.
“There is no law that says that this vaccine is mandatory. You are forcing people now to take what now, and there is no law saying you have to get it,” she added.
She said that it was also important for the unions and employers to meet, in light of the Occupational Safety and Health Act that requires employers to ensure the working environment is safe.
“The law also states that the employer is responsible for consulting with the workers’ representative so we have to take both into consideration… and we come up with a common position and move forward,” said Gardner.
The union official said she was unable to state immediately how many GPHC workers are unvaccinated or have not taken a PCR test.
She said that a PCR test costs GUY$25,000 and reiterated an earlier call for the Government to make the tests free of charge rather than requiring workers to do so at private laboratories at their own expense.
The GPSU official said despite the lockout, some unvaccinated nurses were being allowed, “by picking and choosing”, into the hospital to perform duties.
“I don’t want to disclose the numbers now. This is information that we will hold until we get to the court,” Gardner said, adding that the health minister has been misleading the public on the impact of the lockout.