NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Despite “a ball of confusion” surrounding the lump sum payouts to junior doctors, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands clarified yesterday all junior doctors including interns and those on contract, will receive their $1,400 as promised to public service employees.
Sands’ clarification follows a letter to the Bahamas Doctors Union from the Public Hospital Authority (PHA), advising them that the payment would only apply to permanent and pensionable doctors and those under contract, as well as interns, will be excluded from the process.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, the health minister said, “There was some delay, and certainly this has been a ball of confusion with the back and forth, the discussions, etc.
“Let’s be very clear, the doctors, the non-consultant doctors, all of them, and the nurses, all of them, will be getting the $1,400 lumpsum.
“It is intended to get to them before Christmas. But there was indeed a glitch in terms of the posting of the amounts to their accounts, and so, we expect that the nurses will get all of theirs posted on their account either today or into the evening, and the junior doctors as close to today as possible.
“It’s not going to be next month, but just as long as we can get the logistics down.”
Sands said he has apologized to the president of the BDU over the ordeal.
“This is an unfortunate situation,” he continued.
“It was never any intention that anybody would be excluded. It was simply a matter of things didn’t happen in the time that it should and with the clear, explicit instructions being noted.”
Asked how many are expected to receive the payouts, Sands said, “plenty”.
“I think the doctors’ union has about 150, and I think the nurses have some 1,200,” he said.
“…Certainly, it’s quite a few. Then you have other persons who qualify for the benefit so it should be a good Christmas.”
In a statement on the payouts, the Cabinet Office advised, “Lump sum payments will paid as scheduled in December to all public servants, PHA staff, doctors, nurses, teachers, members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, and Bahamas customs, immigration and correctional officers.”
Over the past year the government has been embroiled in a series of issues with members of the health care service.
The BDU and PHA recently clashed after the union claimed the government intended to terminate 20 junior doctors who the authority reportedly refused to provide contracts, “but kept them lingering on all of this time without paying them at the rate they should have paid”.
The PHA and Sands has denied the termination claims, and said the authority was in the process of undertaking a matching program where eligible junior doctors are being sought to transition to senior house officers for appointments in New Providence and Grand Bahama public health facilities.
Asked yesterday about his relationship with the BDU, Sands said, “I am the figure head of the Ministry of Health and so by definition, any of the 10,000 persons who may feel aggrieved, ultimately I guess the buck stops with the minister.
“Therein lies the basis of any thought that there is a tumultuous relationship.
“I certainly have no personal issues with anybody and when a union or a union member or union leader may feel aggrieved with the policy of the Ministry of Health, the Department of Public Health, the National Health Insurance Authority, the Public Hospitals Authority, they come looking at the minister and the minister becomes the person who there’s a beef with.
“I ensure that there is clear, open communication; that there is respectful communication.
“There is an obligatory tension between management and workers – no offense intended – whether you’re talking about the professional staff or the line staff.
“We have a job to do. We need to make sure that the beneficiaries of what we do are the people of The Bahamas, the patients of The Bahamas.
“And in as much as there are challenges with the job of doctors, nurses, anybody, I am going to seek to get it resolved or remedied, which doesn’t mean that any particular union is going to get everything that they ask for.”
He added that all of this could only happen if there is a mutual respect of the office.
“So, if you’re the president or the executive of a particular union, you’re entitled to a level of respect. I also expect a level of respect because I am not going to disrespect anybody.”