Withdrawal persists

CPSA to meet with PM on Monday


A meeting between the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) and the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) yesterday morning that was geared toward ending senior physicians’ withdrawal of all elective services for a third day ended abruptly with the association walking away from the table, according to CPSA President Dr. Locksley Munroe.

Physicians withdrew elective services in New Providence and Grand Bahama Tuesday after the CPSA and PHA reached an impasse over salary increases for senior physicians, who have not received a raise in the last decade. Today will mark the fourth day of action.

Speaking to Eyewitness News, Munroe called the meeting “totally disappointing”.

He said the association realized the PHA was not prepared to bring the matter to an acceptable resolution.

“In fact, within 15 minutes it had come to an end,” Munroe said.

“The PHA had called the meeting to try and get a resolution to offset the initiation of industrial action.

“Almost as soon as we got there the chairman of the board stated he would not speak with us as long as there was some form of industrial action going on, so almost immediately we walked away from the table.”

In a statement yesterday, the PHA said it met with the association in an attempt to further negotiation on a “path of resolution”.

The authority said it asked the association to reinstate services as it was difficult to negotiate in good faith amid continued action.

“It is the PHA’s intention to maintain open lines of communication with the CPSA, and management hopes that discussions will continue in good faith as we seek to fulfil our mandate of delivering quality healthcare to the Bahamian people,” read the statement.

“During the CPSA’s industrial action, the PHA continues to employ its emergency operations protocols as part of measures taken to limit the impact on services rendered at our hospitals and clinics.

“Management wishes to thank the public for its patience during this time and apologizes for any inconvenience caused.

“The public will be notified once a full resumption of services has taken place.”

The PHA has offered senior physicians a $12,000 increase and around $3,000 in on-call allowances.

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

However, Munroe said senior physicians would need approximately $75,000 to move forward.

There has been mixed reaction from the public on the physicians’ withdrawal.

While some have conveyed support of the physicians taking a stand, others have criticized the move and expressed concern about the impact of the healthcare sector.

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes announced in the Senate yesterday that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis will meet with both heads of the umbrella unions in The Bahamas as well as their affiliates to address the concerns of each union.

The prime minister reached out to the CPSA Wednesday and expressed support for physicians, while encouraging them to continue negotiations with the PHA, Munroe said.

Yesterday, Munroe said the CPSA will attend the meeting with the prime minister where he hopes their concerns will be addressed definitively.

“Meeting with the prime minister is not unique,” he said.

“This took place with [former Prime Minister] Hubert Ingraham when he was prime minister and the BDU — I think it was back in 1996 — and that point there was an acceptable resolution to what the conflicts were.

“So, the prime minister has brought resolution to this type of situation before, under the [stewardship] of Mr. Hubert Ingraham.”

In a separate interview, Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson said the government should immediately intervene with the CPSA as a matter of urgency.

Of Monday’s meeting, Ferguson said putting more than a dozen unions in a room and attempting to address each of their specific issues could be a “recipe for disaster”.

“Let’s deal specifically with the medical issues, the doctors, the nurses,” he said.

“Once that is disposed of, we can meet with [about] issues.

“I would strongly suggest that happen.”