Staff morale is at a turning point, says Health Minister

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Deputy Richard Renouf said that a shake-up of management at the Hospital was helping to improve feeling among Health workers and their bosses.

His comments come after it emerged last week that nurses were being encouraged by their unions to demand more overtime pay and no longer work on ‘goodwill’ as public-sector workers prepare for industrial action in reaction to their latest pay offer.

Tensions have been running high among healthcare staff and the States as unions say their members feel that promises made to them several years ago for equal pay have been broken. Nurses and midwives were offered average pay rises of 4.5 per cent and 2.1 per cent for 2018 and 2019 respectively, while the latest inflation rate is 4.3 per cent.

When asked what he thought staff morale was like at the Hospital, Deputy Renouf said: ‘Perhaps I’m not the one to be definitive about that. Staff would not necessarily come to speak to me.

‘Clearly the pay award is upsetting, particularly nurses, so morale there is low. I would want us to find a solution to that quickly that is fair to the staff.’

Although the minister said the pay award was a ‘big concern’ he added that he believe the feeling among staff was changing.

‘Set against that [the pay dispute] there have been whole rafts of change in management,’ he said. ‘I think there is a mood among staff that we are at a turning point, that we can improve management and staff relationships.

‘I hope there is a willingness to work more closely together.’

Deputy Renouf said his department was currently looking to appoint a medical director, drawn from consultant level, who would sit on the management board to ‘feed in clinicians’ views’.

‘Before there was some representation [on the board] but the guy was a consultant working most of his time in the Hospital,’ the minister added.

‘This is a substantive full-time post. We need that very clear, dedicated representation by medical staff.’

Deputy Renouf said Health had recognised the need to change the way in which the department was governed before the publication of a report in September by the Comptroller and Auditor General which described governance structures as ‘inadequate’ and called for ‘urgent action’.

Earlier this month Health unveiled its plan in response to the 22 recommendations outlined in the CAG’s report. This included the establishment of a streamlined Health and Community Services Board which would be responsible for formulating strategy.

‘I’m looking forward to the board we are setting up that will be meeting in public,’ Deputy Renouf said. ‘We are going to be examining all the policies that we want to follow to make sure they have been fully developed. In public we will be asking: “Have we got this right?” “Are there groups who are annoyed about what we have proposed to do and can we address those concerns?”

‘I think it is important that the public understands how the Health Department works. It is a big part of our lives and a big part of the States budget.’

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