Charity donates $160,000 cash after nurses’ strike and ‘very urgent’ appeal from church President Tevita Havea

The Vaiola Hospital Board of Visitors Charity has donated TOP$160,000 to support nurses who went on strike recently as well as all staff members who are working during the Christmas holiday season at the hospital.

Some of the nurses who arrived at the palace office in Nuku’alofa to submit their petition to the king

The donation on Thursday comes after nurses in Tonga staged a half-day strike before Christmas as a result of their disappointment with the Minister of Health’s handling of their proposal for a pay rise.

The President of the Free Wesleyan Church Tevita Koloa’ia Havea wrote to the Charity in support of the nurses’ strike.

Mr Havea, whose wife is a hospital nurse, said the staff members especially the nurses at Vaiola, Tonga’s largest hospital, are concerned after their urgent needs regarding their duties had been ignored.

In Tongan he said: “Oku ngauta e kau ngaue Vaiola tautautefito ki he kau Neesi he ikai ke tokangaekina enau ngaahi fiemau vivili ki heenau fakahoko fatongia”.

Mr Havea, who is also a member of the Charity, said the nurses are being frustrated by the health system.

One nurse told Mr Havea she worked non-stop for nine days and 12 hours a day.

Mr Havea said some nurses worked extra shifts for 12 hours in a three-day period.

He also said that only two or three nurses had been rostered to look after one patient ward.

President Tevita Kolo’ia Havea

About 100 highly experienced nurses had just left the country to take up jobs overseas, he said.

“The staff members are in a state of burnout and the quality of the services for the nation’s needs is degrading”, Mr Havea said in Tongan.

He said the nurses move to approve their proposal for a pay rise as well as how they are being compensated for extra shifts they do went unheard even by the Minister of Health.

The President reminded members of  the Board that their first and foremost responsibility was to visit the patients but it looks like they shifted their emphasis and focus on developmental projects.

“Such projects are the responsibility of the government, but we do it after requests from the hospital”, he said.

“It is very important for us to also recognise the duties of the staff members who are looking after the patients”.

He said the Board has yet to help those full-time staff.

“I do believe this is more important than building garage and parking projects for the hospital”.

Mr Havea then made the following proposals to the Board members and said  these were “very urgent” for their consideration:

He proposed that the Board include the nurses’ move to ensure pay equity and safe staffing so they could do their duties accordingly, in its agenda.

He also proposed to donate cash as a one-off payment in support of all staff members who had been working during Christmas holidays 2023.

He said that the board should also consider including this donation for all staff members at Vaiola hospital during Christmas holidays in its future budgets.

As we reported previously, the Minister of Health said in a press conference he regularly met with the nurses about their concerns and pay rise proposal. He said he was surprised after he was told they had marched to the king with a petition regarding their pay proposal.

The Prime Minister also said at the time he had yet to see a copy of the proposal but he would consider it.

The donation was expected to be distributed equally among 400 staff members at the hospital.

HM Queen Nanasipau’u is the Patron of the Vaiola Hospital Board of Visitors which consists mainly of church leaders since its establishment in the 1940s.

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