Some frontline health workers who participated in delivering much needed health services during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in Vanuatu, particularly nurses, are questioning the delayed payment of their risk allowances.
On the 22nd of August 2022, the Public Service Commission (PSC) wrote a letter to the Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Health (MoH), Russel Tamata, informing the Ministry about the approval of Vanuatu College of Nursing Education (VCNE) student allowances during the COVID- 19 pandemic.
The letter stated that the Commission in decision No.62 made during its meeting No. 12 of 12th August, 2022 approved the allowance for first year students assisting in the COVID-19 pandemic with effect from 11th of April 2022 to May 2022.
The letter stated that they shall be paid an allowance at a rate of intern level 5 which is equivalent to VT416, 000 per annum.
One of the male nursing students who requested for his name not to be disclosed, said although they heard that the authority had previously processed their risk allowance, they still have not receive anything.
“This was stated back in October 2022; however, it appears that the officials misled us,” he said.
Another nursing student, who also decided to remain unknown, said officers keep giving them dates, but their risk allowance was never paid.
“They promised to pay us VT3, 000 per day during the COVID-19 pandemic, but since then, we have gotten nothing,” the student said.
“Some of our co-workers had previously gotten their risk allowance, the majority of us who had been doing data entry had not.”
While nursing students are raising their frustrations, some nurses from Santo who have been at frontline during the COVID-19 period have echoed similar concerns.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, they asked us to work and promised us that in return there will be risk allowances. But when everything was over, nothing has been paid. We have been waiting since last year till this year,” a nurse from Santo said.
“We have been visiting rural areas in Santo and providing vaccination, we are the ones who detected COVID-19 cases in Santo. If there is another outbreak, they will look for nurses.”
The nurse claimed that the majority of the nurses will be joining the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) if they continue to wait.
However, Judith Melsul, Human Resource Management and Development officer of the MoH said they have paid out the first lot, and there is another list, which they have submitted to the Finance department.
“We are walking closely with finance officials to release the risk allowance, it is not only the Ministry of Health, there are other government departments who have yet to pay the risk allowances of their staff,” she said.
She explained that after they had paid the first lot, the PSC appealed for them to revisit the risk allowance rules and policy, thus finance authorities put the payments on hold.
“As the accounts have been closed for the end of year, we will wait for the budget to be approved by the Councils of Ministers (COM) before the payments are processed,” she said.
The Human Resource Management and Development officer added that in February, the COM will approve VT56 million as the MoH’s yearly budget, consequently the outstanding risk allowance will be sourced from this budget.
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