Some doctors did not receive the $1,400 lump sum payment the government promised in time for Christmas, and are still unclear as to when the payment will be received, according to Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett.
This comes after a December 19 letter from the Public Hospitals Authority addressed to Bassett which said that the payment would not occur through the regular payroll process, but instead through a separate direct deposit to the respective bank account of each eligible member of staff.
It also indicated that some payments might be prorated amounts.
“The PHA is unable to conduct a full assessment of each junior doctor to determine whether there is a need for prorating any of the gross amount awarded. As a result, it is the PHA’s intention to make full payments of $1,400 to each eligible staff, then conduct a review in early January 2020 with a view to recouping any overpayments in a one-time claw-back,” the letter said.
However, on Saturday, Bassett said, “No one has received payment as yet. Well at least some have, through DPH (the Department of Public Health) but not at PHA (Public Hospitals Authority).”
She added, “They can’t say when it will be paid. They can’t give us a date.”
Over the past several months, relations between the BDU and government have had some rocky moments leading to rising tensions.
In late August, roughly 420 doctors withdrew their services more than eight months after the doctors voted to strike, and shortly afterwards Bassett and more than 50 doctors demonstrated outside Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH). The strike lasted for several days and government ultimately referred it to the Industrial Tribunal. At the time, Bassett said the union intended to pursue another strike vote.
More recently, Dr. Duane Sands, the health minister, publicly denied rumors that a group of 20 junior doctors was fired by the PHA earlier this month.
Bassett previously told The Nassau Guardian that she feels “doctors seem to be placed at, once again, the short end of the stick” in relation to the lump sum payment.
“Well, the minister has assured us that it will be [paid] so we’ll have to wait and see,” she said on Saturday.
Sands said yesterday the doctors will get the lump sum “as soon as possible”.
Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle said that it was the government’s intention to pay all 22,000 public service employees a lump sum payment; however, he later confirmed that not all workers would be eligible to receive the payment after all.
He said the lump sum payments were to be paid to members of the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU); teachers; permanent employees who are paid weekly; members of the uniformed branches (police, customs, defence force, immigration, etc.); and Public Hospitals Authority staff, including permanent doctors and nurses.
He also indicated who will not be paid: other government authorities and corporations; members of the judicial branch; contract workers hired outside the Public Service Commission (including consultant doctors); 52-week program employees; air traffic controllers; ministers and members of Parliament.
The Guardian understands that Bahamas Nurses Union members have not had issues with the payment.