‘We are not putting the public at risk’

As junior doctors continued their second day of strike action, Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr. Melisande Bassett yesterday insisted that the physicians will ensure that no patient is in “danger”.

“We’re constantly in flocks making sure that we have physicians available to respond to an emergency…,” Bassett said.

“We are doing the best that we can. If we get a call saying that we need an extra physician there…we make sure that they show up.

“We’re not putting the public at risk. We’re fighting feverishly to bring this to an end so people can work and rest well at night and not have this overshadowing them.” 

On Wednesday, the junior doctors triggered what Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands called “an emergency situation” when they withdrew services.

The withdrawal of services came more than eight months after the doctors voted to strike.

The key issue is holiday pay, with the union claiming that the doctors are not being paid for working on holidays.

Bassett told reporters yesterday, “This ain’t about money. This is a principle. This is a fundamental right that every Bahamian is afforded under law. It doesn’t matter if it’s a private entity [or] the government, the laws are there to protect all Bahamians.

“They’re there to govern every Bahamian and how we behave. This is a breach and the fact that now attempts are being made to rectify this breach I think gives credence to that.” 

In addition to the holiday pay issue, the doctors expressed concern over receiving contracts of no more than three years from the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA). 

Yesterday, in a statement, the authority said it “deeply regrets the impact” of the strike on the delivery of healthcare.

“The Public Hospitals Authority regrets to advise members of the public that the recent industrial action taken by members of the Bahamas Doctors Union has resulted in services being reduced to emergencies only,” the statement said.

The impacted facilities included Princess Margaret Hospital, the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, the Rand Memorial Hospital and the Grand Bahama community clinics. 

On Wednesday, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said the BDU and the PHA are expected to meet at the Department of Labour on Monday.

Yesterday, when asked if the union would return to work before that meeting, Bassett said, “No. We are not until this is resolved. We have meetings scheduled today and we will see what the conclusions of those meetings are.”

That meeting was expected to take place with Sands.

However, Sands said the meeting had not happened up to press time.

“We’re still negotiating,” he said.

Sands added, “I’m going to keep working until we get the desired result and when I can’t work anymore I will [go] home and get some rest and start again tomorrow.”


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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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