DEH problems ‘systemic’, says CS boss

| 24/10/2018 | 57 Comments
Cayman News Service

Garbage bins overflow at Smith Cove (file photo)

(CNS): Civil service chief, Gloria McField-Nixon, said the problems impacting the Department of Environmental Health and the failings in garbage collection are “systemic”, but the new bosses parachuted in to get things back on track are making progress. Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday, McField-Nixon, who is currently acting deputy governor but whose usual job is chief officer for the Portfolio of the Civil Service, said there was resistance to accountability from some people in the DEH, whom she called “passengers”, but the problems were being tackled.

As issues surrounding garbage collection mount, McField-Nixon said the new management team was cleaning up a backlog of issues across the board that have impeded performance.

More details have emerged in recent weeks about the problems relating to staff and equipment failures. It appears that some garbage collectors, who are some of the lowest paid public sector workers, are being accused of having slowed down the collection in order to miss the daily target, enabling them to work and claim overtime.

McField-Nixon told PAC that attempts to put a stop to those efforts to scam the system have been challenged by some employees, and that people failing to turn up to work was still a problem.

She said these “systemic issues didn’t happen overnight” and that the new managers were making steady progress improving the reliability of equipment and working out exactly why staff are on leave, possibly due to medical issues or having been placed on different duties.

But PAC Chair Ezzard Miller asked why those further up the pecking order were not being held to account for the staffing issues, in particular, the chief officer of the health ministry, since the ministry has overall responsibility for this department and appears to have more challenges than most.

Miller said that when a driver does not turn up for work, he has a supervisor that should hold him to account, and everyone all the way up to the CO has a supervisor. He said that while “you can delegate authority, you can’t delegate accountability”.

Referring to the mysterious case of former DEH director Roydell Carter and his secret pay-off, Miller said that since he had “evaporated …and we don’t know what he got”, he wanted to know what was happening to the ministry boss, who has “ultimately responsibility for all this”.

He asked, “At what point do we hold a CO accountable?” 

Miller said that after the department blew millions of dollars, the garbage is still not collected and no one has done their job, apologies from the deputy governor’s office was not good enough for the committee.

Accepting that the DEH was “not world-class yet”, McField-Nixon said the apologies were about trying to explain when targets were not met and what was being done to address it.

She said the new leaders were making progress but they had a lot of issues to deal with, including what she described as “willful challenges to the attempts to hold people to account”.

This sentiment appeared to be echoed by the premier, who, according to posts on the social media blog Cayman Marl Road, has also weighed in on the issue. WhatsApp messages sent between Alden McLaughlin and residents of his Red Bay constituents and Prospect neighbours over failings in garbage collection in those communities showed the premier threatening to expose specific garbage workers. 

Responding to the group neighbourhood chat about the problem, which is leading to rat infestations, he said more people needed to get fired.

Cayman News Service

Alden McLaughlin’s WhatsApp message to constituents (click to enlarge)

“The delays in pick ups are being caused by ‘sickouts’ in order to get overtime for the same work by having to work overtime and weekends,” he said. “We have told the acting governor that drastic action is necessary to address these personnel issues. If they don’t sort it quickly I am going to go public with my criticism of their failure to deal with the indiscipline. If I had the authority I would fire 3 of the ringleaders immediately and see if the rest wanted to try their luck with more sickouts!” he added.

But McLaughlin made no mention about the chief officer’s responsibility or the minister’s role in the failing departments under his remit.

At the PAC meeting, MLA Chris Saunders, who has also faced massive garbage collection issues in his constituency, said the problem was the lack of accountability. He asked, “What does it take for a senior civil servant to be fired?”

While mistakes happen, “people needed to own them”, he said. The country should not have this ongoing serious problem with garbage, then the director disappears and that’s it, he said. “Where’s the accountability?” he demanded.

Miller wanted to know how the civil service is handling issues like the Carter case, as he implied that someone in senior management in the ministry made a poor decision to try to fire him but cost the public purse unknown millions of dollars after another secret settlement was made.

Meanwhile, the DEH said Wednesday that it will begin its annual holiday bulk waste collection exercise in the Eastern Districts on Saturday, 3 November, ending in West Bay on 21 December, just in time for Christmas.

See full details of bulk waste collection on the CNS Notice Board

See the full PAC morning session below on CIGTV:

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Category: environmental health, Health

Comments (57)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Bring in workers from the Philippines and problem solved . This is what all the gardening companies have done and it works brilliantly. No issues with sick out .

    • Anonymous says:

      My friend. Cheap labor has killed the Cayman I came to know. Even expats are packing up to co even with their status.
      I Cannot compete now with $6hour asians and indians with degrees who work 80 hour weeks.
      The RIch still get richer

    • Anonymous says:

      So lives of Philippines man don’t mater? Use them, abuse them and kick them out once they get sick? Cayman kind! They are humans and back home they have families.
      Noone, local or an expat should be working in that field for less than they deserve, which should be an equivalent of what they are being paid in civilized countries.
      High compensation, life time medical benefits, generous life insurance, long and short term disability coverage.

    • Anonymous says:

      Gardeners are not sanitation workers. And sanitation workers are not gardeners.
      Apples and oranges.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Who, in their right mind, can accuse garbage men in faking their sickness????

    According to a University of Miami report, garbage collectors suffer the most injuries to their lower backs and are plagued with fractured feet, bruised knees, and torn hands from picking up so many cans as well. Another study conducted in Denmark indicates that garbage collectors are twice as likely to suffer from stomach problems than the general workforce, and they are also many more times likely to suffer allergies, infections, and respiratory problems. Because of such hazards, the number of workers compensation cases filed by garbage collectors in some areas is 7.4 times that of the general workforce, according to a Florida study.

    At first glance, garbage collecting may not seem extremely hazardous.
    Garbage collecting can put tremendous strain on your body.
    Some injuries stem from constantly repeating awkward movements, such as jumping in and out of garbage trucks and lifting cans that can sometimes weigh 100 pounds or more. The weight and the often-awkward positions can cause back strain and ankle sprains. And on days when the road is slick, lifting heavy cans can lead to a nasty fall, especially since collectors never know what to expect.

    Garbage contains every type of hazardous material imaginable from battery acid to bleach, from pesticides to hypodermic needles, from cat and dog excrement, to chemical waste . Even radioactive waste material has reportedly been found in normal residential trash from time to time.

    The potential for injury, infection, poisoning, burns or respiratory damage is high and unavoidable in many cases.
    Dangerous materials like broken glass and light bulbs are a common cause of injury for sanitation workers.

    Trash is often filled with vermin such as rats and mice, roaches and other foraging pests.Even contact with dead rodents can result in diseases like rat-bite fever, which causes fever, skin lesions and flu-like symptoms.

    The heavy equipment used in the course of garbage collection, including sanitation trucks, compactors and front-end loaders, are all inherently dangerous and can cause serious injury or death.

    Who, in their right mind, still have a nerve to call them “sickouts”??

  3. Anonymous says:

    To our garbage collector comrades: Organize. Unionize. RESIST!

  4. Anonymous says:

    So these 2 new bosses cant speak for themself? Not even they names are given.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Premier how can the collectors do sickouts to get over-time pay?. When a internal audit were done on environmental health that were released on October 1, 2018 that told the public that the two million dollars for environmental health were abused over spent on over-time pay-outs.And in that audit report the chief officer for health stated that a investigation is still going on. The public talk is that it is due time for an up-date on who is doing the investigation?. And all of the environmental health staff and management must get investigated one-on-one and all of the ministry of health staff and the chief officer for health must get investigated one-on-one also.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the garbage collectors are calling in sick so often because they actually are sick/ they pickup rotting bacteria and virus infested garbage for a living I’m sure this pre-disposes them to being sick quite often. Maybe the incompetent DEH Manager and CO need to try to provide them with protective equipment and clothing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There are lots of talk about the garbage situation on the island but there will never be any better service until we have people that are in charge in that ministry to be people who are knowledge of the situation. It is my opinion that neither the Health Minister or the Chief Officer know what they are doing and things will never improve until both of those persons are relieved of their duties and replaced with people who know what they are doing.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If the truth is – that a lot of the problems are caused by workers not showing up to their job, as the Premier stated, then let those workers go and hire people who want to work.

    The nice program has proved that there are hundreds of people out of work and want work.

    Exposing those troubled employees as the Premier said he might do, doesn’t help the problem.

    Maybe his government should be exposed, because they are not doing anything impressive for the Cayman Islands.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Give someone an inch, and they’ll take a mile.

    End the payment of overtime, pay a fair rate for a fixed amount of work and ensure that it can be accomplished within that period.

    This would remove the moral hazard and leave no grey areas when it comes to performance management.

    • Anonymous says:

      Puts a lot of pressure on the management to (a) set a realistic work/time schedule and (b) make sure they have the trucks, etc., to do the work with. If you have three trucks to do four trucks worth of work then either (a) something doesn’t get picked up, (b) you work overtime, or (c) both of the above. And when the truck crew has to work overtime the support staff (waste receiving, truck maintenance, etc.) have to work overtime too because garbage/truck/etc. wasn’t there when it was ‘supposed’ to be. – Methinks the problem really wasn’t with sickouts of people working at 5am w/out protective equipment (masks, etc.) hauling heavy garbage pails by hand.

  10. Tom says:

    Bring wheelie bins and less problem with employees means less wages/overtime bill.

  11. Elvis says:

    Well said mr premier.
    Hard truth

  12. Anonymous says:

    DoEH, get out of the commercial garbage business (skip rental & clearing, plus grabber trucks). Leave it to the private sector. Reduce the recurrent expenses. Those employees can transition to private employers and see what happens to slackness. Remaining employees will very likely buck up and not wish to be next. So performance should improve.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Doubletalk from civil service managers, come on now, “the problems impacting the Department of Environmental Health and the failings in garbage collection are “systemic””

    It is picking up garbage and most of these managers are not fit for purpose.

    I doubt most of them could run a lemonade stand.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have not meant anyone who can compare with Gloria McField in saying so much and actually not saying anything sensible. I’ve never heard so much mumbo- jumbo! I have a remedy, let us take our garbage and park it in hers, the minister’s and the chief officer’s front yard. Between them they are allowing the island to become one huge garbage dump. How difficult can it be to fix this mess?

  14. Ron Ebanks says:

    The whole problem with everything in the Islands , the politicians are playing politics with everything including the iguana culling project.. If they can take their heads out of the political bucket , and start looking at everything with care and common sense , Cayman Islands would be great again .

  15. Anonymous says:

    Whilst DOEH is in shambles, it seems that a lot of people on this Island are getting lazier and nastier every day! Many of my neighbors seem to be incompetent to properly secure their garbage! Hell some of them can’t even be bothered to turn their garbage bins over after DOEH has collected and put the garbage on top of the bin rather than inside it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Let me ask again – we can’t even manage our current garbage situation and dump, nor the DOEH, yet we are supposed to trust government to spend a gazillion dollars on a cruise ship dock??? Crazy!

    Drain the swamp!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Most underrated profession: Garbage Man.

    Garbage men do a job we can’t do without. Isn’t it just obvious that garbage collectors provide more social value than Wall Street traders? Garbage men take out trash, and if they didn’t do that, our neighborhoods would quickly become overrun with filth and disease.
    These guys are doing really dangerous work. They must be rewarded properly.

    • Anonymous says:

      Where are the women crying out for equity in applying for these jobs.

      • Anonymous says:

        The same place as white men.

        • Anonymous says:

          I applied they said you have to be working at a government job first. She was a foreigner from the SE. She wanted to know how I found out about the job. I said a friend called me to let me know a man just quit. It was around when the recession hit. I sent another another Caymanian to check for the job she told him the same thing. But when you hear the garbage truck coming get your butt up and look for yourself and see who is working on the grbage truck.

        • Anonymous says:


      • Anonymous says:

        They have bigger gold-mines to dig.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree 7:33 . I see these workers out at 5:am ,dark ,sometimes in rain ,having to worry about biting dogs ,hot sun days , I’m always happy to have something to offer them .and I’m sure we can do better by how we store our garbage in the containers ,,,bag them properly ,that seems to be the case at smith cove ,,people will just throw the garbage anywhere , Take bags to the beach with you and clean up your mess when leaving ,,,I do .cayman belong to us ,,,let’s do our part .

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, we should pay them CI$ 5000 a month. Its very dangerous work and you have to get up very early in the morning. Right now they are getting only CI$ 12 per hour for 48 hours work per week, CI$2304 per month. Gov’t pays good money for most jobs just sitting behind a desk. Go out there and lift all those filthy stinking bags that are falling a part. Tell me how much you would want to get.

      • Anonymous says:

        I get your sentiment but at the end of the day it’s still unskilled labour. You can’t send kids off to university to come back and be making the same as garbage men.

        We really need to get over this entitled mentality. Let’s pay teachers what they deserve first before we start paying garbage men the same as CPAs…

  18. George Towner says:


    Do you know what it is like picking up 50 to 100 pounds of garbage at every stop, and throughout the week, and get paid low for ot. At some point you are going to pull a muscle, sprain an ankle, shoulder, back or leg, or worse get sick from odors, and catch infections … these guys are not robots! You can’t expect good performance if you fail to take care of the needs of your staff! Plain and simple! :/

    • Gray Matter says:

      That’s the job you signed up for

    • Anonymous says:

      No we expect them to do their jobs properly. I realise it is hard work but instead of calling in sick or not calling st all perhaps they should ask for an open meeting of all collectors, supervisors, managers, chief officer and Ms. GLoria if necessary and sort this mess out. Have dialogue with these people and review salary if thst is deemed necessary. They cannot stay away from their jobs so thst they can manipulate overtime hours. Why csntvthry get fired for that?

      • Anonymous says:

        been there, done that, nothing changed.
        Also, some fear speaking out for fear of bullying (including by bosses), etc. – whether that’s fair or not I don’t know, but its real.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Mrs. McField-Nixon is absolutely correct about “systemic” problems at the root of what we are experiencing with the DEH. What she should acknowledge and unequivocally state (which she probably will NOT) is that this affects the entire Civil Service. The issues facing DEH are absolutely systemic throughout the public service!

    These problems have been fostered for years by Mrs. McField-Nixon, her boss, and many of her Chief Officer colleagues throughout the public service. Its roots are disrespect for professional work ethics and lack of accountability which are displayed and ACCEPTED throughout the public service! I name her and her colleagues because they are the LEADERS of the public service!! As such, they should accept the blame, not just the big pay checks!

  20. Anonymous says:

    So, he calls them “sickouts”! He suggests to fire the “ringleaders”.
    These are the signs that wisdom is eluding your leaders.

    Your leaders don’t understand the importance of garbage collectors to society.
    Many take them for granted. what would happen if they stopped picking up the trash? The entire way of living would be in trouble. Garbage workers are integral when it comes to the economy continuing to operate.
    Yet, it seems that in this country, they are underpaid and treated like disposable garbage.
    I would say, go ahead, fire them, INSTEAD of getting to the root of the problem, as wise people would, and see what happens.
    As for the workers themselves, stand your grounds, but do it civilly. Sanitation workers must be highly compensated and provided with life time benefits. Workday must be shortened due to hazardous conditions of the job.

    “The $100,000 job: Garbage workers” by CNN business

  21. Anonymous says:

    The public talk is that the supervisors are unable to keep there staff to account because they themselves are the leading cause of the scamming of the system and are the biggest scammers in the system. The public talk is that the supervisors never gets punished or fired because they controlls the system and are with the higher-ups. So they are covered and always protected. For example no matter what they did such as in the internal audit report of the environmental health that were released to the public on October 1, 2018 stated of intentional abusive over-time money spending of environmental health two million dollars and still have their jobs tells the public something is drastically, dangerously and wrong with the system. Then in the internal audit report that were released the chief officer of health stated it is still being investigated. The public talk who is being investigated is it all of the staff for the ministry of health including the chief officer for health and all of the environmental health staff including the management?. The public talk is that it is due time for a up-date to be released on the who is doing the investigation?. And when will the investigation be completed?. And when will a proper, honest and transparent report be released to the public?. The public talk is because a up-date have not being given to the public since October 1, 2018 about the investigation that is still going on. That were stated by the chief officer for health in the internal audit report that were released to the public on October 1, 2018.

  22. Rodney Barnett says:

    Certainly when the new waste-to-energy system is designed, the DEH should include world class automated trash pickup on Grand Cayman. If large cities with millions of residents can effectively use automated one-man trucks with standardized trash containers, GC can do the same on approprite residential routes.

    The term “world class” is tossed around so lightly no one knows what it means.

    • Anonymous says:

      New waste to energy system? Do you mean Garbage in, garbage out system to be run by people who can’t do anything right?
      May be it is time to start thinking about moving to greener pastures. They can have this kind of paradise all to themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes then these worker that are doing their sickout will wish for a day they had a job, much less try to manipulate the system to get overtime. “As much as you want, but not as long as you want!”
      Since Cayman has become a lawless society though, I can see why people would think they can do things like this with no repercussions.

      • Anonymous says:

        Apply for their jobs if you are so smart and healthy.

        Cuban drifters have easily managed to get what they want. Offer them garbage men jobs and see their response.
        There are no fools. People aren’t going to work for a pittance endangering their health and lives. Calling them “suckouts” is SICK.
        What local garbage men need is a smart and educated leader. Detained Cubans have one or two. And now they are laughing at you, doing nothing and being free.

  23. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Just Another Day in Absurdistan

  24. Anonymous says:


  25. Ron Ebanks says:

    Good going Mr. Miller, you hold their hands to the fire . It really sounds like there’s a big problem with accountability with everyone in the DEH .

    • Anonymous says:

      And Bernie still thinks that Caymanains must be given jobs at all costs.

      There are no foreign nationals collecting garbage. Shame on you DEH workers.

      Shame on you Bernie for supporting incompetence.

  26. Anonymous says:

    another day…another story highlighting the incompetence of the civil service.
    and another day of cig ignoring the recommendations of miller-shaw and e&y reports.
    welcome to wonderland.

  27. Anonymous says:

    yawn… tough talk from do-nothing alden….
    the only thing he has done with the civil service is expand it and give them pay increases.

  28. Anonymous says:


  29. Anonymous says:

    What a mess, literally.

  30. Anonymous says:

    The piss poor service from DEH is creating a major health hazard on this island.

    • Anonymous says:

      Right on the nail. The ‘systematic’ agenda is the mental, physical and economical deterioration of Caymanians. Just check it out, it’s hidden in plain sight.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Gloria stop talking crap. I live in Franksound my garbage is collected. Thanks. But why you dont take a drive West Bay???? Lord have mercy especially mount pleasant, birch tree hill??? Some places look like slums. Garbage overflowing EVERYWHERE!!!!

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