Union leader: Gov’t, fiscal board must make healthcare an essential service
By The Star Staff
General Workers Union (UGT by its Spanish initials) President Gerson Guzmán López insisted Wednesday that staff shortages at the Río Piedras Medical Center could be resolved if Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia were to ask the Financial Oversight and Management Board to declare healthcare an essential service.
“The staff shortage problem at the Medical Center is a problem that the UGT has been denouncing for years and it is a problem that the government has ignored,” Guzmán López said. “The shortage and flight of personnel can be stopped by declaring health services as essential. The governor knows firsthand how PROMESA [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act] works and knows that if he makes a claim to the board, they have to do it.”
Guzmán López noted that declaring health an essential service protects the Medical Center and assigns it sufficient funds to hire the necessary personnel to provide the quality services that Puerto Rico residents deserve.
“Right now the board assigns a budget to ASEM [the Medical Services Administration] to cover needs and hire personnel, but that money is not enough,” the union leader said. “When ASEM asks the board to fill vacant positions, the board rejects it because they have to comply with the imposed Fiscal Plan. At the end of the day, the people’s health comes down to the dollars and cents the board allows to be used.”
Guzmán López pointed out that the declaration of essential service is necessary to do justice to the salaries of current Medical Center employees and to recruit new personnel.
“With the necessary budget allocation, salary scales can be revised to offer attractive salaries by recruiting new staff and filling vacancies,” he said. “This way, salary justice is done to the thousands of employees who give their all every day to ensure the health of the patients who arrive at the hospital. These personnel who have to work shifts of up to 12 hours deserve fair wages and better employment conditions.”
The UGT leader demanded the action necessary from the governor, the oversight board and the Legislature to declare health an essential service, including accelerating the processes of approving and signing the bills filed for this purpose.