Allaying fears of a potential healthcare shutdown, Bahamas Doctors’ Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett said yesterday that junior physicians will not take industrial action until the senior physicians return to work.
On Tuesday, the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) withdrew its services for all non-emergency services from Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).
Those doctors have yet to return to work.
The BDU also announced that it intends to take a strike vote.
But Bassett said the union will ensure that patients are not significantly impacted if junior physicians do take industrial action.
“Before the consultants took the decision to take a strike action, Dr. [Locksley] Munroe would’ve met with the junior doctors to let us know of his intentions [and to] also discuss that collectively [so] the two unions would…never have industrial action at the same time, will never have [a] strike at the same time,” Bassett said.
“Why? Because we have all taken an oath to ‘first do no harm’. We have to lend [the senior physicians] support because it would be on our consciences if any patient were to die because a doctor was not present.
“[This] limits what they are able to do, what we are able to do in terms of showing full force of strike action that’s why the tactics that they are using had to be orchestrated [and] had to be planned and only focused on non-emergency care and services that the hospital provides and even outside of that our consultants have still been available to us.”
The junior physicians are taking issue with a lack of overtime pay for physicians who work on holidays.
On Tuesday, Bassett said the junior physicians are the “only set of persons within the hospitals, clinics, etc.” who are not paid holiday pay.
“We’re just paid a regular day for working on a holiday,” she said.
She added: “Something as simple as ensuring that junior doctors are paid the legal and constitutional double time for working holidays, we have to battle [the] administration for in the 21st century.”
In September, junior physicians demonstrated in front of PMH, claiming that they were being denied key benefits, like holiday pay.
The BDU claimed junior physicians who work on public holidays have consistently not been compensated.
“For us, this is personal,” said the union in September.
“In a field where eating Christmas dinner from a Tupperware container or celebrating special events vicariously through photographs has become the norm, it is unfair and outright criminal to be denied holiday pay.”
Yesterday, Bassett urged the Public Hospitals Authority to “do the honorable thing”.
“We are unable to strike, we are unable to withdraw services because our patients come first,” she said.
“Honor our moral standards. Meet us there because we are restricted in what we do and do the honorable thing and just follow the law and do what is fair and just.”
Director of Labour John Pinder told The Nassau Guardian that doctors who claim they are working overtime without compensation should file a complaint with the Department of Labour.
He stressed that a strike should be the “very last” step.