Senior physicians announced yesterday they have ended industrial action nearly two weeks after withdrawing certain services from Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) over a pay dispute with the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).
Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) Treasurer Dr. John Dillett said, “The CPSA has reached a tentative agreement in principle with the government of The Bahamas and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) regarding our industrial agreement.
“We still have some minor matters that have to be decided, however the major financial matters, by and large, have been agreed upon, and as such we are able to announce that we will, effective immediately, stop our current industrial action and will be asking the members of the CPSA to return to work in their full capacity.”
The union and the 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 unmet demands for a salary increase.
The failed negotiations resulted in a withdrawal of services by senior physicians on November 27, which ultimately led to a cancelation of many services at PMH.
As senior physicians return to work in their full capacity, the PHA said it anticipates a steady reengagement of services in coming days.
Yesterday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said, “Certainly now whatever tensions may have existed can be put behind us and we can continue working to build a better health system.”
The PHA said it expects that “negotiations will further advance in good faith, as both sides seek to fulfill our mandate of delivering quality healthcare to the Bahamian people”.
On Wednesday, the senior physicians met with Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson to bring resolution to their standoff with the PHA.
During the meeting, a counterproposal for a salary increase was made by the government.
On Wednesday evening, the CPSA held an emergency meeting to present the proposal to its membership and gather feedback before accepting the offer.
Dillett said although an agreement was reached between the government and the CPSA, “an official document has not been signed”.
He said that “many items have been agreed to and as such the last details need to be worked out”.
“We are close, close enough where we can return to work, but there is still a little bit of work to do,” he said.
Dillett added: “I would not say that we are completely happy, but I think that this group has made some form of compromise because we want healthcare to continue to improve. The government has increased their offer on a number of fronts, and as such the membership is satisfied that it is an agreement that we can all have.”
Senior physicians initially requested $250,000 annually as a base salary, but CPSA President Dr. Locksley Munroe said they were willing to accept $75,000.
While the CPSA declined to disclose the details of the agreement, The Guardian understands that senior physicians will receive approximately $60,000 base salary (up from $48,000) and other benefits once the agreement is formalized.
When asked whether the CPSA has ruled out the possibility of further industrial action, Dillett said, “I believe if the government of The Bahamas and the Public Hospitals Authority are able to maintain their word, the CPSA will maintain its word as well; so providing that both parties continue to bargain in good faith, then I don’t anticipate any further action.”