Senior doctors of the Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) remain in stalemate. Notwithstanding the assurances of CPSA doctors, the ongoing industrial action has the potential of exposing gravely ill Bahamians who depend on Princess Margaret Hospital to unnecessary risks.
Most Bahamians do not have the option of going to Doctor’s Hospital or other privately owned health institutions simply because they cannot afford to. Most Bahamians do not have health insurance coverage. That too they cannot afford. I mentioned in the past that the Central Bank of The Bahamas revealed that 90 percent of working Bahamians do not have $5,000 on their bank accounts. For all intents and purposes, The Bahamas is a poor country.
Multimillion dollar foreign direct investments over the past 45 years have cushioned the blow of this country’s true economic condition, at least with respect to indigenous black Bahamians, who constitute 85 percent of the population. Many of the Bahamians whose faces we see in the Thursday’s Nassau Guardian and The Tribune obituaries are dead because they could not afford the astronomical fees of private physicians, who are in the business to get rich.
The current situation with many gravely ill Bahamians is similar to what Kino, Juana and Coyotito encountered with the rich doctor in John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”. The wealthy doctor refused to treat Coyotito because his father, Kino, could not afford to pay his fee. It was only when the doctor learned of Kino coming into possession of a massive pearl that he decided to treat the child, who was stung by a scorpion. Many Bahamians can attest to the fact that the first question private doctors routinely ask is if they have health insurance. Like the doctor in “The Pearl”, many Bahamian private doctors seem to be operating in contravention of the Hippocratic oath, which states that doctors must concern themselves with the wellbeing of the sick, whether they’re rich or poor. If CSPA members are in the healthcare profession to become wealthy, they have chosen the wrong profession.
CPSA members are obviously not taking into the consideration the financial constraints of The Bahamas. Their initial asking price of $250,000 for each of their approximately 115 members shows a shocking naivety concerning the financial condition of the national coffers. Had the Free National Movement (FNM) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis acquiesced to the $250,000 request, that would then mean that the state would then have to dole out a staggering $28,750,000 annually between 115 senior doctors.
At $250,000, it would then mean that CPSA doctors would be earning approximately $20,833 a month. The PHA’s proposal of $60,500 per annum, or $5,041 per month, is a fair offer, and is commensurate with the socioeconomic state of The Bahamas. I honestly doubt The Bahamas can afford to give CPSA its minimum asking price of $75,000. Each year the massive civil service costs taxpayers nearly three-quarters of $1 billion.
The current situation is clearly unsustainable. If the FNM yields to the demands of each of the unions that are demanding money, it might be tempted to lay off in the civil service or increase VAT once again. VAT currently has no cap. It can be increased from its current 12 percent rate. In all things considered, at $60,500 per annum, CPSA doctors would be among the highest paid public doctors in the entire Caribbean. The issue with CPSA doctors as well as many other Bahamian professionals is that they unfairly compare this third world country with first world countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Canada. However, these countries’ economies are in the trillions, whereas The Bahamas’ economy is in the single billions. The Bahamas is light years behind the foregoing nations with respect to finances, education, industry, technology and development.
In closing, it is interesting that CPSA members have chosen to stage an industrial strike at this juncture, seeing that their reported grievances have spanned a decade, dating back to the last FNM administration of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. To the best of my knowledge, the CPSA was never a thorn in the side of the Christie administration. So why all of a sudden do CPSA members appear to want to topple the public healthcare system? Could it be because one of their colleagues, Minnis, currently serves as prime minister? Is there a hidden agenda in their shakedown of the Minnis administration?
– Kevin Evans