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Unite calls for hospital walkout over healthcare staff concerns

Unite the Union shop stewards have unanimously voted to take industrial action at St Bernard’s hospital Hospital tomorrow.

The union said the action is a result of concern over how a “growing culture of blame” was being used against health workers carrying out their duties for patients.

In a bulletin to members, the union flagged how it had previously been vocal about instances of bullying and how these cases had been handled by the GHA.

The decision to take industrial action was therefore unanimous across all departmental shop stewards out of concern for its members in the GHA, ERS, and the Care Agency, Unite said.

In doing so the union cited the handling of the industrial tribunal against the GHA arising from allegations of bullying against the previous Medical Director, Dr Daniel Cassaglia, and the current managerial responsibilities he is undertaking.

Unite also claimed that the approach by the GHA’s Clinical Governance team had increasingly focused on “punishing staff” rather than improving the service and providing guidance on how health professionals can better work in the interests of patients.

In addition, the union highlighted in a bulletin to members what it described as “attempts of privatisation and their links with private health companies primarily from the Sheffield area.”

Unite also referred to the “…low morale and discontent caused by a culture of blame that has led to staff feeling undermined and unsupported due to a lack of executive power within the Health and Care Sectors.”

Unite the Union said that with the onset of Covid-19 and the possibility of a second wave, answers were needed urgently so that frontline workers could continue to serve the community to the best of their ability.

“Throughout COVID-19, frontline [health Health] and Care Workers have gone above and beyond in protecting the community from the most deadly pandemic in our lifetime,” said Sam Hennessy, Unite Regional Officer for Gibraltar.

“Their heroic efforts ensured that Gibraltar averted a disaster that has become a reality for most of the world, although as we know the virus has not been defeated.”

“However we are concerned as a union that workers are informing us that they are increasingly fearful in their place of work and are concerned that [there]y is a greater propensity to be reported to their professional bodies and to Clinical Governance rather than being supported and encouraged to deliver the best service possible to the people of Gibraltar.”

“This approach is causing morale amongst members of staff to be at an all-time low where they are not just fearful of their concerns not being addressed but that many are worried about raising their head above the parapet in the first place.”

“This could lead to patient care being compromised because staff are apprehensive in carrying out their duties.”

Mr Hennessy added: “The handling of the bullying case of the previous Medical Director continues to cause greater feelings of mistrust amongst the membership as it leads to the appearance that it is one rule for those at the top and another for frontline workers.”

“In addition, the increase in companies from Sheffield being incorporated into the GHA and the lack of a transparent process in why and how these services are engaged is cause to question the tender process.”

“The union believes going forward that greater transparency and accountability is required so that staff and patients are confident that service users come before profit.”

Mr Hennessy said Unite would always stand against any form of privatisation of Gibraltar’s health service and the union’s representatives and members had been clear on the need to take action in the interests of staff and the well-being of patients.

Given the Covid-19 pandemic, it encouraged anyone participating in the demonstration on Thursday to wear masks and observe social distancing.

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