PolyClinic staff vent frustration about internal issues

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Central Health Region says the matter is being dealt with ‘internally’

Some staff members of the Dr Otto Rodriguez San Pedro PolyClinic II have officially written to the Central Health Region expressing their discontent as it relates to the management of the clinic. The three-page letter, sent to Nurse Melinda Guerra, Manager of the Central Health Region, details the staff’s frustration at the way the clinic is being managed. The correspondence was sent on April 16th and was carbon copied to a number of people including the Honorable Manuel Heredia, Area Representative for Belize Rural South and Mayor of San Pedro Town Daniel Guerrero.

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The San Pedro Sun received a copy of the official correspondence, which states the staff has repeatedly made verbal complaints on the issues affecting them as employees at the clinic. The letter says that by extension, even the residents of San Pedro Town are now being affected because of the internal problems. “We have decided to put these (complaints) in writing with the intention that they will be addressed in a fair manner that is beneficial to the staff and community. Never in history has there been so much confusion and disarray in regards to resignations, transfers and the loss of trained medical and technical personnel at the clinic. The staff is at its wits end and yet we must struggle to always ensure high quality of service to the residents of San Pedro Town,” states the letter. Nurse Guerra confirmed to The San Pedro Sun that the letter was received and that representatives of the Ministry of Health have met with the staff and the “matter is being dealt with internally.”

The correspondence by the staff comes at a time when Doctors Noeli and Laurenzco Nicholson (husband and wife) have apparently given written resignation letters that comes into effect on April 30th. The Nicholson presented their resignation after being informed of the Ministry of Health’s decision to transfer them to the Cleopatra White Health Center in Belize City. In addition, it also comes at a time when the services of a sessional nurse has been terminated and a veteran nurse, working on the island for over 10 years, has been given notice of transfer effective April 30th. “The team of supervisors came and called a meeting with some of the staff. They intimidated us because of the letter telling the staff that the letter will be placed in each of their record. Then they asked each staff, one by one in the presence of the administrator, if we had any issue with him,” said one of the nurses. “That is intimidating.” However Nurse Guerra flatly denied that there was any intimidation, saying “we are happy when staff expresses concerns but they have to send us proof. Proof is what stands in a court. We cannot base on hearsay.”
The letter says that the main concern is in “regards to the lack of productivity and knowledge of the job in regards to Mr Owen Vellos, the administrator, as it relates to the general improvement, management and growth of the clinic; improvement and development of staff and our work environment and communication among departments, staff, central region, members and residents of San Pedro Town.” Guerra responded by saying “we have taken internal measures to address the issues so that issues do not affect the quality of service we are offering to the residents on the island.”
The letter makes serious accusations against the clinic’s administrator Owen Vellos including those of misuse of the public health facility’s vehicles, misuse of donated funds, lack of communicating critical information, managing the clinic ‘haphazardly’ and even making false accusations against fellow staff members – one being when an impostor was allowed to operate at the clinic without doing any checks on the individual’s qualifications first, then placing the blame on someone else. Vellos declined the opportunity to clarify the accusations made in the letter and directed The San Pedro Sun to Nurse Guerra.
The letter also makes reference to the new Medical Coordinator at the clinic Dr. Jerry Lanza. “He is acting as administrator, making decisions that are not within his jurisdiction. The staff is requesting that he is provided with a job description and is urged to practice within such guidelines,” states the letter. Nurse Guerra reiterated that those matter cited are being dealt with internally. Dr. Lanza was contacted by The San Pedro Sun who also declined an interview, reiterating that we direct comments through Nurse Guerra.
It is expected that on May 1st, there will be added pressure on the remaining staff at the clinic when the changes come into effect. Adding to the pressure of losing two doctors and nurses is the lack of a dental assistant and auxiliary nurses. It is uncertain to what degree the changes will affect the services offered at the only government operated public health facility on the island. For that reason The San Pedro Sun contacted Heredia, who was copied into the letter, for comments regarding the issues.He promised an interview but up to press time that interview has not been forthcoming.

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