JIS News

The Ministry of Health and Environment has activated its emergency protocol in light of the threat of industrial action by some 800 doctors in the public health sector.
Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, said that part of the emergency protocol would be to scale down activities in the health sector and focus on emergency care.
“The consultants, in such an event, will take over and carry out normal service delivery for the emergency care and also, where possible, will try to access additional services through private physicians,” Dr. Campbell-Forrester said.
She was speaking at a press conference on April 17 at the Ministry, King Street, downtown Kingston, in response to the threat from members of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (JMDA).
“It is important that those patients who are in hospital, who can be discharged, that they would be discharged with specific instructions, so that those patients on the ward who are very ill can be concentrated on,” she added.
The protocol will be utilised by the hospitals’ management and the parish health departments, supported by the Regional Health Authorities (RHAs).
Dr. Campbell-Forester also admitted that the hospitals would not be able to do elective surgeries, if the doctors carry out their threat.
“I am really hoping that good sense will prevail and that our doctors will choose to carry out the essential part of their service, after they have worked their eight hours per day,” she said.
Minister of Health and Environment, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, explained that two overtime claims- the Emergency Incentive and the Rostered Duty allowances – were at the heart of the dispute. They would cost the Government an additional $93 million and $819 million, respectively, this financial year, he said.
“What the Government is asking the doctors to do is to hold strain, like any other public sector worker, for the second tranche of payment which is due on April 1, 2009. We would look at it later on, but in no way shape or form can the Government of Jamaica, at this time, accommodate such claims,” Mr. Spencer said.
“If we can afford to pay allowances of $912 million, then certainly the implication is that we can afford to give the teachers more, we can afford to give the nurses more, we can afford to give a number of people more,” the Minister pointed out.
“I am hoping that good sense will prevail. I am appealing to the doctors and the leadership of the association to make good sense prevail, and to hold strain until such time when the Government can look at the allowances,” he explained.
Mr. Spencer said that the Ministry of Labour has been advised of the doctors’ position, and the Ministry will take the appropriate action, according to the law.
On April 17, Minister of Labour and Social Security Hon. Pearnel Charles, secured a 28-day injunction in the Supreme Court to prevent industrial action by the doctors. Mr. Charles said that any action to disrupt the health services would be adverse to the national interest, hence his decision to seek the injunction.
Mr. Spencer said that the Ministry will have to look at the allowances and formulate a new strategy in dealing with them.
“I have instructed the Chief Medical Officer and the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Grace Allen Young, to look at these allowances and to make a proposal to me on how we can compensate the doctors when they work additional hours,” Mr. Spencer said.

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