AN agreement between the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) and the Bahamas Doctors Union this week will benefit 500 physicians and bring greater healthcare quality for Bahamians.
Minister of Health, Dr Perry Gomez, said the agreement is expected to “bring long overdue benefits” to doctors at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and the Grand Bahama Health Services. Included in the new agreement is medical insurance for the 499 doctors working within the PHA.
Dr Gomez said the five-year agreement, which is retroactive to July, 2010, will cost the government $2.9m and that Bahamians and others seeking services at the three public healthcare institutions should benefit from an enhanced level of services.
“I consider this agreement as a clear indication of my government’s commitment to the ongoing partnership with the labour movement in the development of our country and the public healthcare system in particular,” Dr Gomez said.
“The agreement is comprehensive in scope and reflects the substance of conditions of work and benefits long overdue to our doctors, such as a group health insurance salary and other benefits.
“Indeed this agreement is a milestone and a giant leap forward for the Public Hospitals Authority and The Bahamas Doctors Union. I am satisfied that it will facilitate an even closer working relationship between the two entities.”
Dr Gomez said the agreement was concluded and signed after a “long, but very cordial negotiation” and without the threat of a withdrawal of the physicians labour.
“It is with much gratitude therefore, that I commend the president and executives of the Doctors Union, past and present, for their understanding and acceptance of the fact that our country is still trying to recover from a severe economic downturn and we must be careful not to apply any more pressure to the economy.”
Dr Gomez said one of the “significant benefits” in the agreement is the provision of medical insurance for doctors within the Public Hospitals Authority at a cost of $2.3m.
“The enrollment process for the insurance will begin today in New Providence and will continue in Grand Bahama on Wednesday, so as to ensure its full implementation with effect from August 1, 2014.
Dr Gomez said the new agreement between the PHA and the Bahamas Doctors Union, should prove to be even more beneficial for the Bahamian public.
“The PHA has a tremendous network of physicians and I am pleased with our ongoing partnership with the committed doctors who form a part of the more than 70 specialty services we offer in our public hospitals.
“Now that this process is complete, I am assured that the Public Hospitals Authority and the Bahamas Doctors Union will work even harder to build on the model working relationship they have developed and as a direct result, the Bahamian people and those who come to our institutions for care, should be the beneficiaries.”
Public Hospitals Authority Chairman Frank Smith said the PHA was extremely grateful for the close relationship his organisation has fostered with the physicians who provide care to its patients.
“This relationship is truly one of partnership between the Authority, which has statute responsibility for hospital patients and doctors who bear the weight of their diagnosis, treatment and care.”
Mr Smith said while no Industrial Agreement “is ever perfect, we are convinced we have reached a contract that is fair to all parties and realistically reflects the economic climate in which we operate.”
“Any trade union agreement represents and involved and meticulous consultative process where competing priorities and interests must be made to align in order to achieve the best possible outcome under the circumstance. This is especially true with respect to the PHA’s clinical staff, principally doctors and nurses who are the heart and soul of our healthcare institutions.
“This agreement is a document we feel should be seen as a template for other industrial agreements that will follow,” Mr Smith added.