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Doctors’ withdrawal does not help solve problems

Senior doctors at Princess Margaret Hospital (PHM) continued industrial action yesterday. The doctors partially withdrew services on Tuesday following failed negotiations with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).

The physicians have highlighted concerns with working conditions, a lack of health insurance and said they have not received raises in 10 years.

The doctors initially requested $250,000 annually as a base salary but Consultant Physicians Staff Association President Dr. Locksley Munroe said they are willing to accept at least $75,000.

The PHA’s most recent counterproposal would have increased the base salary from $48,000 to $60,500. Munroe maintains the offer was unacceptable.

As a result of the walkout, elective procedures and out-patient clinics were cancelled.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday he intends to speak with Munroe in an effort to resolve the issues.

“I will call Dr. Munroe today as a colleague to find out what the issues are,” Minnis told The Nassau Guardian following the morning sitting of the House of Assembly.

“We can speak as colleagues, one on one, find where the physicians are and we would work towards coming to an amicable resolution. I will also call the president of the nurses’ association and work similarly, accordingly.”

The doctors’ decision has Bahamians concerned.

Antonio Sweeting, 38, who was hoping his mother would make it through the day, was frustrated with the withdrawal of services. He said she has been a patient at PMH for three months and has stage four breast cancer which has spread and reached her brain.

“I got a call today and they told us to come to the hospital, I don’t know if she is going to make it through the day,” Sweeting said.

He described the withdrawal of services as worrying.

“I’m just trying to figure out why they picked this job,” he said.

“If you know you pick a job, then you should know what you’re up against. It shouldn’t be about money. They’re putting lives at risk. It shouldn’t be about money, it should be about the lives.”

Joann Edgecombe, 25, who was awaiting an update on her aunt, said the “very act of a strike is putting people at risk”.

She said her aunt has been a patient at PMH since having a seizure last month. For this reason, Sweeting was concerned about how other patients would be affected by a long-term withdrawal of services.

“There are a lot of patients up here who need assistance and they can’t do anything on their own without doctors’ assistance,” she said. “It’s a scary thought.”

The doctors should go back to work and negotiate with the Public Hospitals Authority. We already have an under-resourced and inadequate healthcare system. Partial withdrawal of physician services makes it worse for the poor and working classes who depend on state healthcare facilities.

Not all doctors are on board with the industrial action. Dr. Harold Munnings will hold a free clinic at his practice at Grosvenor Medical Centre on Friday and Saturday to “assist those hospital outpatients whose medical clinics have been canceled”. There are others who will continue to offer their services despite the action of the Consultant Physicians Staff Association.

This walkout is ill conceived. It should end. The PHA and doctors can reach a consensus. Denying services only causes suffering for those who do not have the resources to pay for private care. The pain of this dispute should not be placed on them.

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