PMH forced to activate emergency centre
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Making good on their threat of industrial action, senior physicians yesterday ceased all elective services, forcing Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) to activate its emergency operations centre.
Failed negotiations between the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) triggered the withdrawal of services, according to CPSA President Dr. Locksley Munroe.
Their concern centres around salary raises and a lack of increases in the last decade.
During a press conference, Munroe said physicians will not allow anyone’s life to be put at risk, but “it has to be a life and death situation”.
“We are making a statement to the public in particular, just to let them know that there are going to be difficulties and also to the administrators that it is time for this matter to come to a satisfactory conclusion,” Munroe said, adding that he hopes the public will side with physicians.
In a statement following the announced withdrawal of services, the PHA assured the public that measures had been taken to limit the impact.
It also advised that PMH activated its emergency operations centre.
“All emergency services will continue and the PHA will endeavour to provide the highest level of patient care,” the authority said.
According to the PHA, services at all out-patient specialty clinics, inclusive of medical, surgical, dental, ENT (ear, nose and throat), eye clinic and family medicine clinics have been reduced until further notice.
The authority advised patients with appointments to reschedule.
Elective surgeries were also cancelled until further notice.
The PHA said only emergency cases will be performed and only those cases should be presented to PMH’s Accident and Emergency Department.
It said all dialysis and chemotherapy treatments, however, will be carried out as usual.
“Management apologizes for any inconvenience caused and will continue to keep the public informed as regards to full resumption of services,” the authority said.
Ahead of a 3:00 p.m. Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis told Eyewitness News he expected to be briefed on the matter during the Cabinet session.
Before the PHA’s announcement, several patients awaiting dialysis treatment at the hospital were uncertain whether they would receive care.
Shelby Swain, a dialysis patient who has received treatment for over a year, said, “I don’t know what’s going on right now.”
Asked whether he was advised on any delays, Swain said he was not.
“You come early and sit and hope that you get on by,” he said with a shrug.
“I should leave here by 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. tonight.
“Some days you get on early and some days you get on late, and that depends on how the staff perform in there.”
Senior physicians obtained a strike certificate last month after an overwhelming majority voted in favour of industrial action during a strike vote on October 5.
Physicians threatened to withdraw services earlier this month, but pulled back and resumed negotiations with the PHA following the prime minister’s appeal for talks to continue.
During a meeting on Nov. 16, the PHA presented another counterproposal which would compensate physicians for the lack of salary increases in the last decade.
A third of the value of those increases would be added to physician’s base pay, while the balance would be disbursed in bulk payments, a point of contention for the association which has sought for the funds to be added to physicians’ base pay.
Yesterday, the PHA said it regrets the association’s decision, especially given that it offered a third counterproposal last Wednesday.
The PHA asserted that an agreement had been reached on leave benefits, a pathway to health insurance and the formation of a joint committee to establish performance-based compensation models, as well as medical malpractice insurance.
The PHA said it believed negotiations were continuing amicably.
It said it has proposed a meeting between Friday and next week Friday and awaits confirmation from the CPSA on a date that is convenient.
The PHA added, “It is our hope that discussions will continue in good faith as we seek to fulfil our mandate of delivering quality healthcare to the Bahamian people.”
Munroe stressed that the association is not asking for full value, and once physicians are compensated based on “what is it that we do”, “everything will be sorted out”.
Asked how long action could persist, Munroe said that depends on the PHA.