Doctors have been too patient with government

Dear Editor,

As the nation grapples with the strike action by medical doctors, after failed attempts by the government to avert it, the pain is that the strikers’ demands are very familiar.

It’s true that there may be anger with junior doctors in the short term. In the long term, however, the public is more likely to mistrust the competence of a government that allowed this union to descend into chaos, an organization beset by overworked, demoralized staff and threatened with brain drain.

For too long, the government has been playing a deaf ear to the grievances, hoping the problem would just disappear, but events that we are now seeing, show that doctors have lost patience and will no longer be pushed around.

These demands of the doctors are nothing new.

Some of them have been on the table since 2013, raising the question, ‘What kind of government keeps issues in abeyance for upwards of six years without any action?”

If anything, the doctors have been too patient with the government. They are justified now to believe that government cannot keep its word. This is irresponsible of the government; an indication of gross ineptitude and insensitivity. A government that cannot honor its agreements with organized labor cannot be trusted by the people.

The minister of health does not seem to be flexible in addressing the problem and this means the time has come for the captain to intervene to save the ship.

The prime minister must show leadership by stepping in to end the impasse between doctors and the Public Hospitals Authority.

The prime minister can no longer afford to fold his arms while patients are being turned away from hospitals and being denied access to health care. He must show the same tenacity he demonstrated in addressing complaints by doctors while in opposition!

As he said numerous times, “The government does not care about healthcare professionals.”

The Bahamas’ health system has been neglected and the strike is just a symptom of a time bomb.

If there was any crisis where the prime minister needed to demonstrate that his mantra “that it is no longer business as usual” is not just propaganda, it is the doctors’ strike.

The ineptitude of this government in rudimentary matters is in full display.

Why on earth should such mundane matters be allowed to fester until a strike is called? What does it take for a government that rode to power on the crest of popular opinion, promising to bring change to the polity, fail in such simple matters?

The prime minister who is a physician by profession, and once an active member of the doctors association — the same association which is now up in arms against the government — is unable to meet the needs of his primary healthcare providers as head of the country.

Why has he not been able to meet the demands of the Doctors Union? Is there something, a mystique in government, that turns erstwhile active professionals into docile officeholders or are the demands of the union unreasonable?

Medical doctors play a crucial role in the health sector and the government has not met its obligations.

The nation’s hospitals have long been identified as lacking in equipment.

Remuneration or incentives that are expected to make the profession attractive are not provided.

It is against this background that all must appreciate the strike by the doctors.

The government should act immediately and the strike should not be allowed to go on.

The prime minister should urgently meet with the unions and resolve the dispute.

No excuse can be given for not meeting the demands of health care professionals whose services are fundamental to the survival of citizens.

– Dr. Matheo Smith

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