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Tuesday, June 13, 2006 

The Bahamas Doctors
Union signs agreement

Bahamas Information Services

NASSAU, Bahamas --- The Bahamas Doctors Union Friday (June 9) signed an agreement with the Public Hospitals Authority on behalf of all medical doctors employed in the three public hospitals and Grand Bahama clinics.
At the signing ceremony at the Ministry of Health, the Hon. Bernard Nottage, Minister of Health and National Insurance, said his ministry will see to it that doctors, represented by union president Dr. Francis Williams, are properlycompensated for their work.
“Doctors in the public health service, in my opinion, are not adequately remunerated for the work that they do, for thetraining for which they have done and for the contribution that they make towards the development of our country.
“It is debatable whether the public service can afford to remunerate you equitably. It is a truism, I believe, that lawyers benefit from the fact that so many politicians are lawyers and get advantages that we who are physicians do not get. “However, you have a physician who has worked in the public service who is your Minister and I will seek to take youradvice. It maybe instructive for us to have a commission look into the remuneration of doctors in the public service and examine the extent to which any inequities can be corrected,” Dr. Nottage said.
Also present at the signing was Dr. Baldwin Carey, Director of Public Health and chairman of the Medical Council ofThe Bahamas; Mrs. Elma Garraway, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and National Insurance; Ms. JanetHall, legal advisor to the Ministry of Health; and Mrs. Sandra Coleby, representative of the Public Hospitals Authority.
Dr. Nottage told the union, which represents 200 doctors that although many of them have reservations over thegovernment’s proposed National Health Insurance Plan, they should still give it a chance.
“Once the National Health Insurance Programme is implemented, it is likely that payments for services would be commensurate with more equitable charges and, as a result of that, doctors who work for the public institutions asPublic Hospital Authority or the Department of Public Health would, I believe, be able to look forward to even better remuneration than they receive now,” he said.
Dr. Nottage also said that while he accepts the union’s recommendations and criticisms, he hopes it likewise accept theones he has offered.
“I think also what is a fair request of you from me is that doctors who are employed in the public service do, in factcarry out the obligations of their employment,” he said.
“There are complaints that come to us from time to time, notonly of those who work in the Family Islands clinics but those who work in clinics in New Providence, about whetheror not physicians do in fact give the time which they are employed to give.”
Dr. Carey also commended the bargaining process that led to the agreement, noting that it was done “not with theusual animosity that occurs with union negotiations”.
He was pleased that Dr. Williams and his team agreed to the extension of the in-house training period beforeBahamian physicians will be allowed to go into private practice.
According to Dr. Carey, a doctor only needs to complete a 12-months to18-months internship before they could get aSection Nine licence, which allows doctors to legally enter private practice.
“We are concerned that the level of care provided outside of the hospital is just not up to what we expect for the numberof physicians who, once they get the Section Nine Licence, you never see them anymore – they don’t come to thehospital, they don’t admit patients – so there is no scrutiny by their peers,” said Dr. Carey.
As of July 1, 2006, physicians will need to undergo a two-year internship to get obtain a Section Nine Licence.Dr. Williams said: “As a professional group, medical doctors spend in general a minimum of five years studying beforewe are qualified to call ourselves doctors and entitled to collect that first pay check.
“As of this year, the medical Council will be implementing new mandatory requirements which will extend the period ofpost internship training; as a result of which all recently qualified doctors will be required to study and work for an even longer period of time before being able to engage in any form of private practice.”
He said members of the Doctors Union are “committed and dedicated to providing the highest standard of quality care”to all patients who attend public health facilities.
Dr. Williams said physicians display their commitment and dedication by oftentimes working long hours, withstaff-shortages and patient over-scheduling. “Physicians stationed in the Family Islands have the burden of being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are happy to say that for the first time these Family Island physicians will receive a responsibility allowance.
“It is important that the tireless efforts of our doctors be appreciated and rewarded by compensation that is fair andadequate. There are obviously a number of factors which will affect what is considered fair and adequate compensation.
“In considering the question of fairness, one of the factors is the parity or disparity in salary and employmentbenefits between the various groups of professionals engaged in the public service and employed to the government,” Dr. Williams said.

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