TTRNA president Idi Stuart.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh will be meeting with the T&T Registered Nurses’ Association (TTRNA) on Monday for discussions on outstanding increments and other issues.

This follows several protests by nurses and midwives over the past few weeks.

TTRNA president Idi Stewart had warned that the protests will culminate with a mass demonstration from the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain to the ministry’s head office on July 1, followed by workers embarking on vacation leave if the minister did not meet with them.

But speaking at the ministry’s virtual press conferenceon Saturday, Deyalsingh assured that the health care system was stable. He said he had received a formal request from the union last week Wednesday for a meeting.

The North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) announced recently that the health workers would be paid their outstanding increments in full. However, the union called for a meeting to address other outstanding money, permanent employment, student nurses’ stipends, vehicles being used to transport patients without the required ambulance license and the non-involvement of nurses and midwives at the decision table.

At yesterday’s press conference, Finance Minister Colm Imbert explained that when the Government came into office it discovered that the previous administration had promised increments to health workers. However, he said the Government did not have the money to pay the health workers’ backpay, which was $40 million. With the rental of its facilities and fundraising ventures, however, he said the NCRHA was able to accumulate $20 million that was put in a fund for the backpay. When the issue arose, he said NCRHA contacted him and he permitted them to use their funding for COVID-19 expenses to pay off the backpay. Imbert said he then replenished the COVID-19 funding from the supplementary appropriation in the mid-year review.

Imbert made the point that the money did not fall from the sky nor was it plucked from a money tree.

“It was just a very innovative use of funds they already had,” Imbert said.