Munroe: CSPA will continue to fill the gap in public healthcare, but situation is “near impossible”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Consultant physicians will fill the gap left by the more than 400 junior doctors who have withdrawn services since last Wednesday over matters related to holiday pay owed to them since 2014, though the situation at public healthcare facilities is “trying”, Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Locksley Munroe said yesterday.
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, Munroe said consultant physicians support the Bahamas Doctors Union and has been seeking to facilitate resolution on the union’s behalf.
“We have given them our support; all of the services that they have taken away from CPSA has actually filled those gaps to a large extent; the consultants have actually filled those gaps in terms admitting patients, getting them in investigation and all that; still taking them to the operating theatre. We are going to make a public statement very shortly in support of them, but the CPSA supports the BDU,” Munroe said.
Asked whether the association has also considered withdrawing services in support of junior physicians, Munroe said consultant physicians will not withdraw, just as junior doctors continued to provide services when the CPSA withdrew last November, citing failed negotiations with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).
He said, “No. Just as we did during our confrontation, emergency services will still be provided, but certainly elective services will have to be rescheduled.
“I’ll tell you what is even worse. When the consultants withdrew services except for emergencies, that was just one doctor of a team of four. You still had you registrar, your SHO and your intern… who can call you and they can get advice, and you can sort of things, and you can go and do things because you’ve got three younger physicians generally speaking.
“Now you have one doctor trying to do the work of three. You can figure that burden.
Approximately 115 senior physicians withdrew services in November 2018.
Last Wednesday, more than 400 junior doctors on New Providence and Grand Bahama went on strike.
Last Friday, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) advised that as a result of the action, Princess Margaret Hospital, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, Rand Memorial Hospital and Grand Bahama clinics will “only be treating emergency cases at this time”.
“The authority deeply regrets the impact of the withdrawal of service by members of the Bahamas Doctors Union on hospital services and patient care,” the PHA said. “The PHA will continue to keep members of the public informed as regards the full resumption of services.”
Yesterday, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes announced that he referred the matter to the Industrial Tribunal as the strike action over the employer’s failure to pay employees holiday pay “threatened the public interest”.
He said all parties had been notified in writing.
In a separate statement, BDU President Dr. Melisande Bassett said junior doctors were continuing action, noting that it took 10 years of failed negotiations before the junior doctors withdrew services.
It said the payout during negotiations was cut in half; the union gave the government non-monetary concessions as alternatives for payment, inclusive of improved insurance or one-time tax waivers and construction of a parking garage.
The union said while the government has recognized that the money is owed, it has been unable to sign an agreement with health officials because Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands “insists that he is entitled to make deductions from those funds”.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and the Cabinet met with several union executives over the weekend, including Bassett, Trade Union Congress President Obie Ferguson and Bahamas Public Service Union President Kimsley Ferguson, among others.
Eyewitness News Online understands the prime minister made a commitment to pay nurses holiday pay owed to them in two tranches, however, the BDU claimed yesterday that it was unable to sign an agreement with because Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands “insists that he is entitled to make deductions from those funds”.
The BDU said it was advised by its legal counsel it would be foolish to agree to such terms.
Munroe said with three times the number of physicians removed from the public healthcare system, and each consultant physician seeking to do the job of three people “it’s a near impossible situation”.
“The whole idea is to try and keep people safe; to make sure that anyone who is in danger is not going to go off because of this,” he said.
The CPSA president said he met with BDU executives between noon and 1 p.m. yesterday.