Public health inspectors are in a precarious situation in terms of working and effective means that has forced them to go on strike, after more than a decade demanding improvements in their service. Since May 31, the body, which currently consists of 101 troops throughout the Canary Islands, has been on strike. So far, the pressure measurements have been to run two days of complete inactivity in the month and not use their own vehicle for any inspection. The Administration’s alternative for these trips is public transport by bus whose schedules, routes and stops are insufficient to be able to reach distant places to collect samples or go promptly to review a health alert. With the opening of tourism, the focus of possible public health problems are hotels, since the time they have been closed could lead to inadequate maintenance.
The promises made by the Ministry of Health to improve the precarious situation suffered by this group have once again fallen on deaf ears. “The same situations that have been happening for more than ten years are being repeated,” laments Jafet Nonato, spokesman for the Strike Committee of the Canary Islands Public Health Inspectors and the Canary Islands Public Health Inspectors Association (AISP). They verified it yesterday, in their second day of inactivity, which, according to the organizers, between 85 and 90% of the staff seconded, not counting people on leave, vacations, or in minimum services. Regarding the latter, they insisted that they were more “abusive” than those of May 31 because their struggle overlapped with that of another group. Despite the large influx, they did not receive the promised proposal from the Administration to put an end to this conflict that has been stalled for more than a decade.
Health pledged to seek solutions to this problem as of June 21
And it is that the Minister of Health, Blas Trujillo, had committed himself both publicly in the Parliament of the Canary Islands, and in writing in a direct communication with the inspectors, to sit down and seek solutions with the public health inspectors as of June 21 , that is, yesterday. At first, the inspectors took this communication – prior to the first strike call – as a declaration of intent that nothing came to solve the problem but to postpone the solution once again, so they decided to continue with the pressure measures that they had agreed within the strike committee. Yesterday, and in view of the “laziness” of the Ministry of Health to resolve the problems referred to by the body of inspectors, despite the damage that the strike has caused in the inspections, the workers concluded that their first perceptions were not wrong. Health has not contacted those affected so far, despite the fact that the strike committee sent it a negotiation proposal seven days ago.
During these weeks, although they have not been totally inactive, the inspectors have decided that on Mondays and Tuesdays – when the collection of samples is usually scheduled – they will not use their own vehicle. This measure of pressure is the result of a historical demand for an increase in the price of mileage that was never undertaken, as the Administration preferred to provide them with the possibility of providing them with a public bus ticket. “It is what they have given us during these weeks,” says Nonato, who indicates that when requesting that at least they be given the option of going by taxi to one of the places with the worst connections, the Administration flatly refused.
According to data provided by the Ministry of Health, the Canary Islands Health Service has 125 positions for Public Health Inspector Technicians covered by pharmacists and veterinarians, of which 101 carry out “regular and exclusive” health inspections of their own. workplace (15 in slaughterhouses and 86 at street level). The two work areas of these professionals are food safety –for example, slaughterhouse surveillance, avoiding zoonoses, control of the fishing sector and collective catering– and environmental health –in which surveillance of water for human consumption is found. or the beaches and swimming pools, most of them hotels.
Although the Canary Islands have 125 inspector positions, only 101 are covered
The remaining places are not covered because there have been withdrawals and retirements or personnel have been allocated to cover other areas of the Public Health Directorate. But even if they were all covered, the Canary Islands would continue to be behind Spain in human resources for inspections. In the rest of Spain, the average rate is one for every 12,000 inhabitants, while in the Archipelago it is just half, one for every 24,000 inhabitants. This situation, together with the population growth in recent years and the new requirements for inspection, have caused the number of annual inspections to drop from 5,000 in 2011 to just over a hundred in 2019.
But the lack of hiring and the insufficiency of the workforce at the current times is not the only problem that the body of inspectors drags. Regarding the material means, the workers denounce that often, the only tools they have are “thermometer, chlorimeter and pen”, if not a simple bag or a cooler that others would see more convenient to take lunch to work.
Despite being few, the workplace is not adapted to current needs either. In Tenerife, for example, the 44 inspectors on the staff share a single office in which there are barely seven positions. If the situation arose where half of them arrived at the same time, they would have to take turns working. And indeed, they often do. In Gran Canaria, for its part, the offices are in a poor state. The inspectors will continue with their pressure measures until they get the Administration to sit down with them to solve their problems.