Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has instructed that legal action be taken against workers who walked off the job at the Sangre Grande Hospital and foreign workers be sent to replace them.

He disclosed further that he sent a contingent of Cuban nurses to the hospital and there was a threat to shoot them which he believes was "idle" but security will be beefed up to ensure their safety.

The Public Services Association (PSA) had led a recent protest at the hospital citing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerns such as the absence of a fire certificate resulting in medical staff not going to work, leaving patients suffering.

Khan noted there was the recent death of a baby at the Sangre Grande Hospital and the parents were saying this was as a result of negligence.

"I have heard about it and I've asked the chairman and the CEO to look into the matter," he said.

Khan said the nurses and other staff have cited OSHA 15 to walk off the job.

He said if there are grievances about working conditions there was a process to be followed but it was illegal for workers to abandon their duties.

Khan cited Section 2B of the OSHA Act which states workers in health facilities cannot refuse to work.

He said he asked the chairman and CEO of the hospital to get legal action going and issue legal letters to the workers that they are in violation of the act and their services can be terminated and they too can be brought before the court for illegal action.

"If people are violating the law, walking off the jobs and leaving sick people in the institution, like what we have just heard, the possibility of death, I want to know if that is the action of the PSA to do that" said Khan.

Khan said at the end of the day he has to take stringent action.

He said he will ensure the foreign staff such as medical workers from St Vincent and Cuba staff the hospital and attend to those who are very ill and in need of immediate attention.

He said some wards will be closed and other patients will be directed to other health facilities.

Khan said pharmacists who are supposed to be mixing cancer drugs for patients have refused to work as well as radiographers among other staff.

With respect to the death threat against the Cuban nurses, Khan said he did not know who made it and therefore could not make a police report, but, he assured the Cuban ambassador that the nurses will be protected.

"It has been alleged that somebody has threatened the Cuban nurses and said they will shoot them. I have indicated that to the ambassador that is obviously an idle threat and I will have security in place," said Khan.

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