Payment arrears structure for physicians could trigger action

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While indicating last week that senior physicians would put a hold on their decision to withdraw critical services in the healthcare system, Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Locksley Munroe said over the weekend that the continued difference of views between the CPSA and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) could “trigger some form of industrial action”.

“Despite the various statements made by various sources, the amicable, satisfactory resolution of the negotiations is still pending,” Munroe told Eyewitness News.

“The sense of progress was based on the fact that after 35 months of interaction, the PHA had finally, finally identified funds; funds that were identified to correct the deficit created by the practice of the PHA not adjusting senior physicians’ reimbursement in line with the protocol and procedures established in the public service and the Ministry of Health.

“Those funds would not have addressed the purpose of the negotiation – to improve the terms and conditions of service for senior physicians, obviously, inclusive of an improvement in base salary. There is an obvious difference between the perception of the PHA and the CPSA in the application of the funds. That difference is the cause for further prolongation of this 35-month effort. The difference in perception may, in fact, trigger some form of industrial action…”

Senior physicians who participated in a strike vote in October overwhelmingly voted to strike.

The association rejected a counterproposal from the PHA that month, calling it unacceptable.

During a meeting on November 16, the PHA presented another counterproposal, which would compensate senior physicians for the lack of salary increases in the last decade.

A third of the value of those increases would be added to physicians’ base pay, while the balance would be disbursed in bulk payments, a point of contention for the association, which has sought to have those funds, added to senior physicians’ base pay.

According to Munroe, discussions on increases over the course of the association’s new five-year industrial agreement is another matter altogether.

Ahead of the November 16th meeting, Munroe advised that the CPSA planned to officially inform the PHA of its intention to withdraw services.

In response, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis expressed confidence that senior physicians will prioritize patient care and find a way to avert action.

He said it was “only a matter of communication”.

Munroe said at the time that the CPSA is more aligned with those views.

Speaking with Eyewitness News on Saturday, however, Munroe said the association plans to show “the seriousness of our concerns”.

It is unclear when the CPSA and PHA will next meet.