Health Minister Dr. Kenneth Darroux. File photo

Health Minister, Dr. Kenneth Darroux is questioning the motives of the Dominica Nurses Association (DNA), stating that the leaders in some cases need to decide whether they are professionals or politicians.

He also accused members of the association of being of idle hands and minds.

“It begs the question as to the leadership, in some cases of the nurses association and other such groups and they have to decide Madam Speaker at some point whether they are professionals like they say they are or whether they are politicians,” he said in parliament earlier this week. “I say this and I say this with no apology…it behooves me, Madam Speaker, why would the nurses associations and their social media webpage be advertising, directing nurses to websites or events where we have people trying to refer nurses overseas and at the same time you saying you want to be part of the solution.”

He further questioned how the nurses association can be a part of the solution when they are basically encouraging people to create an avenue for nurses to leave.

“I think they are very idle… idle minds and idle hands who were in positions to make a difference with the system,” Dr. Darroux remarked.

According to him, these idle hands are now encouraging nurses to leave Dominica, “and you saying that you love nurses and your profession.”

“They have to make up their minds, whether they are a nurse, professional or a politician, he stressed. “And if you are a politician, get into the ring and do what politicians do.”

The DNA and the government has been at loggerheads recently over a number of issues including the migration of nurses and pay raise.

General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), Thomas Letang, has come out against the statements, saying he was not in support of the Minister. The DPSU represents the majority of nurses on the island.

During a live interview on Q-95 Radio on Thursday morning, Letang said further discussions should be held to address the issues affecting nurses on the island.

“On one hand you cannot be preaching something and on the other hand you are saying something else,” he said. “I mean if you are saying that the association is a professional association, I am totally in agreement that when it comes to matters pertaining to nurses that the association and the union should work hand-in-hand, and that it what we have been doing over the years.”

Letang continued, “But you cannot when it suits you meet with them separately and when it comes to negotiations you say we are the representative body.”

He said also what needs to be done is some discussion with the union to seriously look at the issues affecting nurses and how they can be addressed, “and of course the nurses association should be part of that discussion.”

Letang further stated that if people are affected by a particular matter it is very natural and obvious that they will speak about it.

“What needs to be done is if you feel that these issues need to be discussed with the union let us do it, and the attack on the nurses association – that could be avoided, and we could have some meaningful discussion with the union and the nurses association to see how the issues can be addressed,” he stated.

He believes that these issues are not being seriously addressed and, “we have suggestions, we have recommendations, we have had discussions with the nurses associations, we have had discussions with the nursing bodies themselves and we would want those matters to be addressed.”

Letang pointed out that nurses do have some serious issues and persons must understand that nurses are very important in the scheme of things, “and you cannot just ignore them.”

“You have to sit with the union representing them, they have to be present at those meetings and let us see how we can address those issues,” he remarked.

Letang said the situation has reached the point where something serious needs to be done urgently.

“Telling the nurses that you are going to give them a one-time allowance for the uniforms that they lost during the hurricane, this is not going to solve the problem,” Letang argued. “The nursing problems are far more serious than those issues and I am seeing that these issues need to be addressed.”

He said the DPSU as the legal representative for nurses, is willing to sit with the Minister and Senior Administrative Officers of the Ministry of Health to discuss the issues affecting nurses.

“As a matter of fact a meeting was scheduled over a month ago, that meeting was not held because at the time I was out of state and the notice for that meeting was very short, that is after I had raised some concerns that the very same minister and his P.S [Permanent Secretary] had met with the nurses and discussed certain benefits/ terms and conditions which normally should have been done through the union as the legal representative body,” Letang explained.

The Dominica Nurse’s Association has said a statement on the matter will be released soon.