Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Melissande Bassett warned yesterday that “ill-treatment” and “callous” handling by the government will drive doctors out of the country.
The comments came after 16 junior doctors were transferred from the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) to the Department of Public Health (DPH) on Monday.
“This recent act, like the many other ill-conceived ideas to diminish and dehumanize doctors, discourages future doctors from returning home to practice,” Bassett said in a statement.
“Many of my colleagues are now seeking employment outside of The Bahamas because of the level of disrespect the industry is now suffering. Many regret missing family gatherings, socials [and] holidays for a now thankless job where you can’t be paid.
“In the not-too-distant future when the healthcare system suffers from the lack of Bahamian doctors because they have been driven out of the country after suffering ill-treatment and disrespect, I pray history will record well how this administration so callously handled us and how little was done to correct these atrocities.”
However, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that the government is only doing what is needed to ensure opportunities for the doctors.
He said the doctors were informed that they will all be paid anything owed to them.
“We have met with all the doctors and outlined to them that they would all be hired, outstanding salaries and benefits paid and many would be posted in the community or at the Ministry of Health,” he said.
“There has been an unfortunate tendency to kick problems down the road as it relates to the training and engagement of physicians.
“We are taking the necessary steps to ensure opportunities for these physicians and the hundreds that come after them.”
Sands added, “Along with their study and sacrifice, these young doctors and their families have also benefitted from the investment of the Bahamian people.
“We are correcting deficiencies that preclude the optimal return on that investment for them, their families and the people who look forward to the care they will provide.”
According to Bassett, the doctors were notified of the transfer in an embarrassing manner a full month after vacancy notices were posted for the positions they were occupying.
“This transfer would occur after 24 physicians that were working at half pay or without pay for the past seven months were ranked and those with lowest scores transferred,” the statement said.
“As if this move was not insensitive enough, the entire cohort of physicians was called into a meeting with human resources manager, and medical chief of staff, and had their names called publicly to say who would remain and who would be transferred.
“Those that were not selected were told not to report to PHA the next day, but rather, present to DPH where they would receive additional instructions.
“These young professionals were not even given the courtesy of having this sensitive information delivered individually in a private meeting. This is yet another example of blatant unprofessionalism on behalf of the PHA, which feeds into the poor employer-employee relationship entrenched in the institution.”
Bassett also claimed that the doctors who were transferred don’t know anything about their new postings.
“[They] were told by the minister of health that they would have to reapply yet again to determine where they would be posted,” she said.
“Requests to the minister of health on when these doctors will receive back pay or full pay have been met with a vague response.
“However, he did confirm that the pay was withheld for seven months in an effort to complete the transfers. To say the least, this is a poor way to treat a professional; to disrespect them by holding an open meeting to announce transfers, and deliberately withholding pay and job security.
“As a junior doctor, seeing the disparity between how easily nurses and consultants are incentivized and how difficult it is for us to even get the salaries owed is depressing.”