Doctors claim progress in talks with govt

While a meeting with the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) and Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson yesterday was “progressive”, the doctors’ industrial action will continue until an agreement can be signed, said CPSA Treasurer Dr. John Dillett II.

“The meeting today with the financial secretary, I believe, was progressive,” Dillett told The Nassau Guardian following their meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister.

“We were able to work through a number of important components of our industrial agreement.

“I know the physician body has always put the healthcare of Bahamians first and foremost in our hearts and as such we have offered, as always, to make compromises to ensure that healthcare was preserved and that the people of The Bahamas could get the best possible care that they could for the country.

“With that end, we have made progress on a number of components.

“We received a counterproposal from the financial secretary and we are going to present the counterproposal to our membership.

“Providing what our membership should say, that will determine what happens next.”

The union called an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon so its members can weigh in on the latest proposal and discuss the way forward.

“We do need to get an official recommendation from the permanent secretary to say that, that has been cleared by Cabinet and the prime minister as well, and as such, if both parties agree, then of course an official document has to be produced and has to be signed,” Dillett added.

“There’s no official document that has been signed as yet and as such our industrial action will continue until such time that there is. But we have made progress, we will present a counter proposal to our membership and our hope is that both sides can come to an agreement.”

The CPSA yesterday continued its eighth day of a withdrawal of services by more than 100 senior physicians throughout The Bahamas.

The union and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) have been back and forth in negotiations for several weeks regarding the CPSA’s concerns with working conditions, a lack of health insurance and a salary increase.

Senior physicians initially requested $250,000 annually as a base salary, but CPSA President Dr. Locksley Munroe said they are willing to accept $75,000.

While he did not want to provide details on the government’s counterproposal, Dillett said improvements have been made to a number of issues the union felt were extremely important, so they are optimistic that some resolution can be made.

“We expect that we will have to make compromises,” he added.

“However, we will be unwilling to make any agreement unless it addressed many or all of our issues.

“What we do think is that we could find some common ground that will work for both the government of The Bahamas and the CPSA, so hopefully that will happen.”

Asked whether he foresees the matter coming to a resolution by the end of the week, Dillett said, “Our hope, as we have always had, is that this can be resolved extremely quickly. We did not expect it to take three years. However, we are optimistic that if all parties are indeed committed to improving healthcare, as well as respecting consultant physicians, nurses and junior physicians, that these problems can be resolved. All we need are clear-minded persons who wish the best for this country and we can all sit in a room and get this done.”

Dillett said the union was yesterday awaiting confirmation from Johnson as to what was discussed during the meeting and will subsequently have a follow-up discussion with him today about any other timeline.

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Sloan Smith

Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas. Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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