• The Star Staff

Legislator to fiscal board: Approve salary increase for nurses

By John McPhaul


New Progressive Party Rep. José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez demanded Tuesday that the members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board comply with Law 136, which would grant a salary increase to nurses in Puerto Rico.

The proposed salary increases fluctuate between about $250 and $500 per month, depending on the experience and training of the health professional.

Meléndez, who authored the measures to guarantee salary increases, said “this law was approved by the Legislature in a unanimous vote and signed by the governor of Puerto Rico [Wanda Vázquez Garced].”

“It seems that the [oversight] board has not learned that Puerto Rico has a government with a mandate from the people,” Meléndez said. “These health professionals are the people who risk their lives every day trying to save thousands of citizens who show up at hospitals or emergency centers infected by the COVID-19 virus. We have lost doctors and other healthcare professionals to this deadly virus. The least we can do for them to appreciate their sacrifice is to do justice to their pay scale.”

The legislator said the central government in coordination with the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority is working to identify the $2 million that would be needed annually to comply with the law.

“Puerto Rico is suffering a talent crisis in the health field because many professionals are moving to other destinations within the United States because the salary scales and fringe benefits are much higher than in Puerto Rico,” Meléndez said. “And as a government we have to do everything possible to retain our professionals and make Puerto Rico attractive.”

“[Oversight board executive director] Mrs. [Natalie] Jaresko’s statements show the lack of sensitivity and empathy she has toward these professionals who risk their lives against COVID-19,” the lawmaker added. “The $2 million that would be needed annually to responsibly meet [the salary requirements of] the nurses of Puerto Rico is not even five percent of the $60 million from the Puerto Rico budget that the fraternity of the members of the board carry in their pockets for luxuries, trips, hotels, contracts and salaries.”

Meléndez reiterated that “[t]hese nurses are the same ones who save the lives of employees, lawyers, contractors and investors of the fiscal control board when they fall ill with COVID-19 in Puerto Rico.”

“As a legislator, alongwith the government, I will do everything in my power to retain these professionals on our island,” he said, “whether the fiscal control board likes it or not.

“My recommendation to Mrs. Jaresko is that she take the $2 million out of the board’s annual budget and give it to these health professionals. Otherwise, step aside and let the government of Puerto Rico do its job of identifying the money and meeting all the demands as it has done so far. Including all the obstacles that you have imposed on us, so that we can move Puerto Rico forward.”

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