Physicians will stay the course



Doctors, nurses still on course to strike


NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Despite Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ intervention yesterday, senior physicians do not intend to resume elective services in the public healthcare system until there is a signed agreement in place, according to Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Locksley Munroe.

Physicians withdrew their services last Tuesday citing failed negotiations with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) over finances.

Minnis met with doctors for more than two hours at his office yesterday morning.

He had a second meeting with the leaders of more than two dozen unions, including both umbrella unions in the country.

Outside of the Office of the Prime Minister, Munroe told reporters the meeting with the prime minister was positive.

He said Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson also attended.

“Some positive progress has been made; primarily he has now organized a meeting to take place between the CPSA, the financial secretary and someone from the Ministry of Finance,” Munroe said.

That meeting is expected to take place today, according to officials.

Asked whether senior physicians will resume elective services as a result of the meeting, Munroe said, “The [action] was initiated because we did not have an acceptable agreement. The [action] shall end when we have an acceptable agreement.”

As for the upcoming meeting, Munroe said he hopes it results in a “mutually acceptable agreement signed off on.”

In a separate interview, Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) President Amancha Williams expressed disappointment that yesterday’s meeting did not result in “something tangible to present to the people”, though she thanked the prime minister for “hosting us”.

Nurses have rejected a new shift system imposed by the PHA.

They are expected to hold a strike vote today.

“Resolving issues, [and providing] deadlines was not done at all,” she said.

“So here, we went back out into the community empty-handed.

“We should have had something tangible to present to the people and the workers of this country. We did not have anything tangible. We should have been given dates and time limits.

“The union is powerful and we have our way of reacting … Today, we say to the prime minister, thank you very much for hosting us today.”

According to Williams, the PHA wrote to the union on Sunday advising that the new shift system will be deferred until further notice.

However, she said a suspension of that shift will not stop the union from obtaining the right to strike and nurses are prepared to withdraw their services simultaneously with senior physicians.

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said the government hopes to address all the trade union issues in the coming weeks and months.

“There are some that are very pressing as you know that are subject to strike votes,” he said outside the OPM.

“I speak about Morton Salt. I speak about the nurses and I speak about the doctors.

“Of course, those are the matters that are occupying the attention of the prime minister and the government, and we would like the healthcare system to remain as strong as possible and as responsive to patients of The Bahamas.”

He said the Department of Labour was engaged with an estimated 90 per cent of the issues raised by the trade unions, though each matter was at a different stage.

As it relates to the CPSA, the minister said, “There are some financial issues that will be addressed tomorrow (Tuesday) in a subsequent meeting with the financial secretary.”

Asked about the nurses’ strike vote and whether he was disappointed the government was unable to de-escalate the matter, Foulkes said it is their constitutional right.

He said he did not want to discuss the specifics of any ongoing negotiation to avoid prejudicing any potential matter that may come before him.