PM to intervene with physicians, nurses

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

Munroe says physicians to meet with PHA today

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As physicians continued industrial action for a second day, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday he will reach out to Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr. Locksley Munroe “colleague to colleague” in an attempt to facilitate a resolution.

“I will call Dr. Munroe, colleague to colleague to find out what the issues are and see if we can come to an amicable resolution,” Minnis told reporters in the gallery of the House of Assembly.

“I don’t know what their exact issues are, but the last thing any doctor would want to do is to compromise patient care. That is not our teaching.”

Minnis said he also planned to reach out to the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU).

Asked whether he was concerned about the impact on the healthcare system, Minnis said he was not apprised of the “exact situation”, but expressed confidence that doctors will not allow any patient to deteriorate.

He said, “[With] emergency care, doctors would not allow any individual, who is considered [an] emergency, [for] their illness to deteriorate. No, doctors would never do that.”

Insisting that physicians are very reasonable people who are not solely driven by money, Minnis expressed confidence that an amicable resolution can be reached.

Physicians ceased elective services in the public healthcare sector Tuesday.

According to the CPSA, the move was triggered by failed negotiations after more than 18 months.

On the impact to public healthcare, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said in a separate interview that the public should not fear as the majority of care provided in hospitals in New Providence and Grand Bahama is emergency care — “probably as much as 90 percent of it”.

He said, “In terms of the real impact on ordinary people, we don’t believe that anybody is going to come to any harm, but we would still like things to get back to normal.”

When contacted yesterday, Munroe said while the prime minister contacted him and expressed his support for physicians, he encouraged them to continue to negotiate with the PHA.

“He supports us to a large extent,” Munroe said.

“He feels that the doctors are underpaid and it is a sad thing that the salary hasn’t changed in so many years, but given his position as prime minister he just cannot dictatorially state what it is that should happen.

“It has to be worked out across the board in other words, and he has made the very clear to us.

Asked whether the prime minister made an appeal for the CPSA to avert further action, Munroe said he did not.

Munroe said there is only one way that will happen: if the PHA responds in a “reasonable manner”.

He said nothing short of a concrete outcome will suffice.

In a statement Tuesday, the PHA said it believed negotiations were progressing amicably, noting that it sent a third counterproposal to the association for consideration last Wednesday.

According to the CPSA, the authority proposed an increase of $12,000 to physicians’ base pay and another 25 percent or $3,000 be dispersed as on-call allowances.

This would increase physicians’ salaries from $48,000 to $63,000.

Yesterday, Munroe said $16,000 added to their base pay would address the lack on increases in the last decade, but an additional 18 percent of that is needed to move forward.

Based on their request, physicians’ salaries would increase to approximately $75,500.

He noted that these were estimates.

Highlighting that family medicine physicians in the U.S. earn $200,000 per year and neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons earn $400,000, Munroe said consultant physicians in The Bahamas are not asking for their full value as they are mindful of the fiscal constraints of the government and the challenges in funding the healthcare system.

The CPSA and PHA are expected to be today at 8:30 a.m.

The CPSA president said today’s meeting will determine the way forward.

Nurses and junior doctors were also in the process of advancing plans to request a strike vote.

Munroe said the physicians will support them in “one way or the other”.