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PHA and CPSA negotiations deadlocked as senior doctors remain off the job

As the country endures a third day of the withdrawal of services by senior physicians, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) and the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) remain at an impasse with no progress in their negotiations.

The PHA and the CPSA met yesterday morning.

Following the meeting, the PHA called for the CPSA to “return to work as negotiations continue towards a resolution”.

“At the meeting, the PHA noted that it was difficult to continue negotiations in good faith during the CPSA’s industrial action,” the PHA said.

“Management urged the CPSA to reinstate services as the negotiations proceed.”

The PHA insisted that it intends “to maintain open lines of communication with the CPSA”.

But CPSA President Dr. Locksley Munroe shot that down.

He said the PHA had not made any attempts to move negotiations forward.

“There was absolutely no offer, no proposals simply because of the statement made by the chairman of the board that they will not negotiate with us under the present circumstances so there was no offer made today,” said Munroe outside the PHA Corporate Office.

He added: “[We’re] very, very disappointed because we came here this morning prepared to accommodate the whole circumstance of the fiscal situation of the country, with our fiscal consideration, with the impact on our patients.

“We came here this morning with an agreed position that we had hoped to place on the table [so] they could go [and review, and] once they had accepted our compromise, then we were more than willing to return to full service.

“They did not even have the courtesy or the decency to accept what we had there this morning.”

More than 100 senior physicians have withdrawn services throughout The Bahamas following failed negotiations with the PHA.

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

The majority of physicians who participated in a strike vote on October 5 voted to strike.

The PHA said that Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) has activated its Emergency Operations Centre.

It is unclear when services will resume and senior physicians will return to work.

Munroe said the CPSA will be “more than willing to go back to work in full” once the two parties “come to an amicable [and] satisfactory conclusion where we can trust what they are saying”.

On Wednesday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands suggested that the impact of the industrial action would not have a significant impact on patients as PMH does not handle many elective services.

“The truth of the matter is that most of the care provided by all of those facilities could be termed as emergency care, so somebody has appendicitis, somebody has a miscarriage, somebody has a gunshot wound, a stroke or heart attack, they are emergencies,” Sands said.

“There is very little elective work done in most of our hospitals. Most of it is management of seriously ill patients. That said, there are people who come from the Family Islands for follow-up visits or consultations and those people in particular will be seriously inconvenienced.”

But Munroe said Sands was “being political more than being someone who is concerned about the overall healthcare management in this country”.

“When you say that it is only emergencies that make a difference in healthcare that is not so,” he said.

“Approximately half of the cases that I deal with as a surgeon, and the surgeons in this group [deal with], they are elective cases, so it’s not a matter that only emergencies are dealt with at PMH, it’s far more than that that’s dealt with at Princess Margaret.”

Munroe denied that a fear of losing income during the strike period will affect the length of withdrawal of services.

He said, “…If you’re being absolutely raw and correct it is a minimal amount of our overall income that is coming from the PHA or from the public service.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he intended to speak with Munroe in an effort to resolve the CPSA’s issues.

Munroe confirmed that the prime minister called him on Wednesday evening.

“In speaking with him, he said that we need to have a proposal, an agreement and he would back that as far as possible and he would like to meet with us and many of the other unions to try to get resolution to the unrest,” Munroe said.

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said Minnis will meet with all the unions with ongoing disputes on Monday morning.

“I also wish to encourage the Consultant Physicians Staff Association to return to work and return to normal duties, especially taking into consideration that the prime minister has invited the president and the president of [an] affiliated union, Mr. Obie Ferguson, to a conference on Monday,” Foulkes said.

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
Minnis: Chipman and
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