MEDICAL personnel and their unions are ready to stand up to the Ministry of Health as it proposes tough new changes to their working conditions at the end of the worst week of the so-called ‘Second Wave’ of Covid-19.
New measures are being introduced to ‘guarantee the capacity’ of the Valencian healthcare system in the fight against COVID-19 that will fall hardest upon these frontline workers, they say.
Among them are proposed measures to:
- Allow hospital directors to move medical staff into specialities not their own as ‘cover’
- Order “forced mobility” of staff so that they can be deployed to hospitals other than their usual place of work
- Increase the number of working hours in the day
- Reduce the length and number of breaks for those on duty
It is these last two measures that have drawn the ire of the relevant unions. Lawyers for La Central Sindical Independiente y de Funcionarios (CSIF) and Sindicato Medico de la Comunidad Valenciana (CESM CV) are said to be analysing the draft proposals in order to prepare a legal challenge.
The Conselleria de Sanidad presented its proposals to the unions, which responded angrily, immediately rejecting them.
“Professionals are not removable puppets to be assigned to any shift, at any time and without a break based on the arbitrariness of the manager,” said CSIF.
“This lack of respect for workers, their work and their sleeplessness for months is unacceptable,” they added.
“And all this without a budget for new hires and without any compensation for those affected,” CESM-CV noted indignantly.
The public workers’ union Comisiones Obreras del País Valenciano (CCOO) pointed out that the draft proposals would allow “the possibility of carrying out exhaustive daily days of 14 hours continuously and without the possibility of minimum weekly rest.”
They also stated that it could mean “suspending reductions in working hours, whose purpose is to care for dependent family members and who will be the collateral victims of the loss of a right as essential as this.”
Rights that are being threatened include that of minimum weekly rest, presently 36 hours, and that workers presently get to spend at least 12 hours between one working day and another. The union also claims that the right to vacation is threatened.
The proposals also ‘call into question the days off that professionals are entitled to at to Christmas and Easter’; ‘impose that a doctor must practise a speciality different from that for which he is trained”, and that directors will “be able to mobilise professionals at will from one centre to another, from one municipality to another, no matter how great the distance’.
The brewing row comes in a week that has been the worst of this “second wave” of the coronavirus, with 9,000 new cases recorded and 83 deaths. And admissions in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) have grown by just over 40% in seven days, with deaths in ICUs having increased by a similar amount.
Some crumbs of comfort can only be found in the number of outbreaks, down by just under 6%.