The Ministry of Health of the Junta de Andalucía has gone from laying off 8,000 health workers in November to using retired doctors and increasing the working hours for nurses to reinforce its workforce just two months later. That is the decision that has been taken after it became clear that the strategy of dispensing with those professionals was not the most successful, as the unions recall. With the healthcare pressure through the roof, especially in Primary Care due to the sixth wave of Covid-19, the Andalusian Health Service (SAS) is forced to resort to this contract strategy to alleviate the lack of personnel that suffers.
Record of infections and Covid rate of the entire pandemic in Andalusia on New Year’s Eve: 1,094 points and 13,344 cases
Specifically, Health has opened two calls to increase the staff of the centers throughout Andalusia. The first affects doctors who have already retired and who are under 70 years of age. They will be able to rejoin their specialty to work as reinforcements while they continue to receive their pension when they are retired. The only requirement that they must meet to return to their position is that they return to the same center where they left off and that they are not older than 70 years, since the Framework Statute that regulates this aspect prevents health professionals from working beyond that age. In addition, along with their registration, they must also include a report that proves that the person is in full capacity to be able to perform the function for which they are assigned.
On the other hand, the SAS has also opened another call that affects nurses. Health recognizes in the same document that the measure is adopted because there are not personnel to hire Nursing in the pool of candidates who accept the offers made to them. “As long as the pandemic continues, and once it is proven that there are no candidates in the category of nurses, who accept offers through the procedures established in the SAS Single Stock Market Pact,” reads the call. Broadly speaking, two contract modalities are offered: one to do shifts in the afternoon with a maximum of 4 days a week and the other to do a continuous working day through guards. Contracts focused on reinforcing the entire health system with doctors and nurses and not just Primary Care. In this regard, it should be remembered that the SAS maintained the majority of contracts in health centers and expanded the workforce by 20%, although it has now become clear that it was not enough.
Contracts for lack of staff
In both cases, the SAS insists that these personnel will be employed in “voluntary” extension of hours and as long as there is no possibility of filling the positions that the different centers take out to contract. A more than real possibility because of the 8,000 health workers that Salud dismissed in November, 3,000 belonged to Nursing and hundreds of them have left for other autonomous communities or have gone on to work in private health. As recalled by the SATSE Nursing union, the precariousness of the contracts that are offered, even lasting days, makes many of these professionals opt for more stable contractual relationships and that allow them a better personal and work conciliation. In addition, given that nurses are assuming all kinds of tasks in this pandemic (from doing a PCR to vaccinating or screening in Primary Care), the excess work they have does not compensate them for the contracts they are offered.
SAS sources explain that this decision has been adopted as a way to “recover one of the measures that were already activated in previous moments of the pandemic to complement the hiring needs.” On the other hand, they detach these reinforcements from the explosion of infections from the sixth wave of Covid-19 by arguing that these incorporations are “voluntary” and “specific” and that they are focused above all on the vaccination campaign in the case of the Nursing professionals. Arguments that are not convincing neither in the Medical Union nor in the Nursing Union. In both cases, they disqualify the measure of the Ministry of Health because they consider that it is not adapted to what the public health of Andalusia really needs.
“An aesthetic measure”
Francisco Cantalejo from the Medical Union considers that this SAS plan is “an aesthetic measure and for the gallery.” That it is of little use when there is also recent data that explains that only 1% of doctors extend their retirement beyond 65, so it does not seem that many of them will have the intention of returning to their positions once retired . “We see much more reasonable for them to make attractive contracts for staff to stay. To make templates large enough so that we do not return in these circumstances. Also, what about the pandemic of waiting lists? We are as concerned or more than the one we live with Covid-19 ”.
For his part, José Sánchez, spokesman for the SATSE Nursing union, considers that the SAS proposal “has no justification.” “If they had not fired 3,000 nurses recently, they would not have to turn to retirees who have deserved their rest. We already said that it was not the time to leave nursing professionals unemployed so that other communities could pick them up ”. Remember that this resolution is “a copy of the previous one” that was taken in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The truth is that there was no dysfunction in the centers because the incorporations were minimal”, so, like the Medical Union, they believe that it will have little travel.
All the unions agree that the layoffs in November are the great slab of the Ministry of Health when it comes to looking now for professionals to fill positions that are not covered by vacations or leave or to reinforce the attention overwhelmed by the cases of Covid- 19. In fact, just a few days ago the SAS argued that it had hired a thousand nurses to strengthen health centers at a time when citizens are in need of them. The reality is that they are still not enough workers and that the queues to go to an outpatient clinic can be seen in almost every corner of Andalusia. Hence, unions such as the UGT or CSIF reject the attitude adopted by the SAS when offering these contracts as they find themselves without room for maneuver.
Antonio Macías, UGT spokesman, considers that it is an “invention” of the Minister of Health, Jesús Aguirre, because “first he dismisses thousands of professionals, and now, on December 28 (innocent?) He draws these two resolutions to return to retirees and take hospital nurses to Primary Care ”. He says that it is a “shame” that the SAS adopts this measure when there are “thousands of Andalusian workers in other health services.” For his part, Victorino Girela from CSIF takes the same line and says that it is “regrettable” that this decision is now being made. “It is a new outrage against workers and their rights, with an imposition of modification of working conditions without the mandatory negotiation at the sectoral table. When we said a month ago that in Andalusia there is no excess in health, they did not want to hear what was evident, the lack of personnel in the SAS staff and the need for their reinforcement regardless of the spikes of Covid infections “. From CSIF they believe that the Junta de Andalucía has acted in an “irresponsible” manner.