PHA position paper reveals $2,500 backpay offer

Sands: Doctors are not expected to be paid like shift workers

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As junior doctors await the Department of Labour to certify a strike vote taken on Monday over holiday pay issues, documents obtained by Eyewitness News Online reveal that the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) offered each doctor $2,500 as a lump sum for the 47 holidays worked over the last four years.

That offer was made in November.

But the Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) rejected the offer calling it unfair and undervalued.

In a PHA position paper, in correspondence with Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, the PHA said it was willing to settle the BDU’s claimed back pay relating to holidays worked, once the junior doctors provided independently verifiable data to support the dates and times “they allege to have worked”.

“As this is not possible, the PHA has proposed to pay a lump sum amount to each junior doctor that would have been engaged by the PHA over the 47 holidays up to October 2018,” the position paper read.

“The amount offered is $2,500 to $2,900 per doctor or $1,072,500 to $1,244,100 and is derived as follows…”

The PHA noted that its total exposure for the 47 holidays with 108 doctors on-call for 24 hours was $5.97 million. The authority calculated that the eight hours of base pay already paid in regular salary accounted for $995,708 and the pro-rated, pre-paid on-call allowance pay amounted to $3.72 million.

As a result, the PHA calculated its “net exposure” at $1.25 million.

“The net exposure amounts to $2,920 per doctor, but we have made an offer at $2,500,” the PHA said in the position paper.

“This amount will be scaled down based on the actual hire date of each doctor to determine the actual number of the 47 holidays passed that they would have been in our employ.

“This proposal was issued on November 14.

“We await the union’s response.”

Bahamas Doctors Union President Dr. Melisande Bassett called the proposal insulting, insisting it was not a fair representation of the funds owed since 2014.

The overwhelming majority of junior doctors voted to strike on Monday over the holiday pay issue.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said when doctors begin clocking in and out similarly to shift workers and demand to be paid as such, then the “very essence of being a physician is called into question”.

“Physicians enjoy standing in any community on the basis of professionalism which means when other people will not, physicians will,” the minister said.

“Christmas morning when somebody is sick you will go and tend to them.

“At midnight, during your child’s birthday, you will leave your family and go and tend to a sick person. That is what physicians do and we don’t do so in exchange for reward or compensation.

“We do so because that is who we are and that is the basis of our profession.

“When doctors start clocking in and clocking out and demanding to be paid for it as shift workers, then the very essence of being a physician has been called into question.”

The minister indicated that the government wishes for the matter to be resolved amicably, though it remains unclear how this will be achieved.