AN unused government site in St Helier will be used as accommodation next year in a move designed to help retain and recruit key workers in the Island, according to the Health Minister.
Deputy Karen Wilson confirmed that Westaway Court would be partially refurbished by February and said that she wanted the ‘voices of staff to be heard’ and for them to have affordable accommodation. Her comments came after a JEP reader wrote a letter to the paper urging her to reopen the former hospital accommodation urgently ‘to stop nurses and junior doctors from leaving Jersey for good’.
High rents in the Island are believed to be fuelling recruitment and retention problems at the General Hospital.
The Westaway Court building was purpose-built for medical workers in 1976 but has been moth-balled for the past three years while the plans for the new hospital are finalised.
In his letter to the JEP, hospital patient Laurie Stewart said that one of the two nurses caring for him had explained that she was from the UK and loved Jersey but had said: ‘My accommodation is so expensive I think I will have to return to the UK.’
Mr Stewart added: ‘The Island cannot afford to lose these hard-working people. It is a complete and utter shame. They give us so much. Something has to be done for those who do not earn enough to afford housing in the Island.’
Fellow reader Brian Nibbs asked why the purpose-built accommodation for hospital workers at Westaway Court was standing empty.
‘Apart from the urgent need for suitable accommodation for the staff concerned, it is sad to see a building of recent construction looking so forlorn,’ he wrote.
‘Surely sufficient units at Westaway could be made available within a few weeks, given the urgent need to retain essential hospital staff.’
He added that he could not understand why the building had remained empty for so long, saying: ‘I feel sure that Deputy Karen Wilson will know the answer.’
In response, Deputy Wilson said: ‘When I was appointed minister by the Assembly, I said that I wanted the voices of staff to be heard and that I wanted to help them to feel joy in their work. Having access to affordable accommodation plays an important role in this, not only in attracting and retaining colleagues for Health and Community Services but also for staff wellbeing in general.’
She added: ‘In the coming months, Westaway Court has funding for limited refurbishment as well as other works. This is expected to be complete by February 2023 and will be used to accommodate key workers.
‘Within my first 100 days of office, I will be speaking with HCS staff to learn about this and other challenges they face, and to hear their ideas on how we can tackle them. In the immediate future, I am working with my colleagues on the Council of Ministers to understand how they too can assist with the issues HCS staff face, in particular where accommodation, which we all know is an Islandwide problem, is concerned.’