By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) has demanded that the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) and the Government explain the recent hiring of 18 Cuban doctors.
The BDU, which represents more than 300 junior physicians, working mainly in the public sector, told the PHA and Dr Perry Gomez, minister of health, that it was “unacceptable” it had not been consulted on the move.
Six specialist doctors arrived in the Bahamas from Cuba two weeks ago, while a Caribbean News Now report on February 18 carried a photo of PHA managing director, Herbert Brown, standing alongside 18 Cuban doctors who had just arrived at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).
The report, clearly based upon a Cuban government press release, said the 18 would be employed at hospitals in Nassau and Freeport. And, based on the terms of a health co-operation agreement between Cuba and the Bahamas, signed on December 21, 2015, the report said more Cuban doctors will soon arrive in this nation.
The PHA is said to be trying to fill personnel vacancies within the Bahamian healthcare system, particularly specialists that cannot be found in the Bahamas, such as radiologists.
However, others believe there is a more sinister motive to the hirings. Given the objections, and resistance, among Bahamian physicians to the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, there is a view that the Cubans are being hired as a way for the Government to ensure it has enough doctors to launch the scheme.
The Bahamas Doctors Union, which falls under the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and is the sole bargaining agent for all non-managerial or junior physicians in the public health sector, last week said there should have been more consultation on the Cuban doctors’ hiring.
Dr Forrestall Dorsett Jr, the BDU’s secretary-general, said: “Some of us feel that there should have been more consultation with the Bahamas Doctors Union. Some of us also feel it could be an endangerment to our way of life as a society, and not only in our profession.
“We also feel it can undermine the very existence of the union and has the potential to create a very contentious relationship between our union and the PHA. There are many Bahamian doctors qualified to practice here in the Bahamas. There have been physicians trained in Cuba who have been denied the ability to practice here.
“We feel that Bahamians are being denied a certain opportunity in this regard. We don’t feel that it is right for Bahamian professionals to be treated as second-class citizens in their own country, at the expense of what some would believe is a tactic to either demoralise the union by showing that they can bring in other physicians, or perhaps to establish another means of bringing in less expensive labour, perhaps,” Dr Dorsett added.
“We had no knowledge of this. We were not consulted, and we feel that it should have been dealt with differently. This is unacceptable, and the union will not sit idly by and allow for our Bahamian brothers and sister to be marginaliaed and disrespected.”
Dr Dorsett said that the union is also concerned over the qualifications of the Cuban doctors.
“The Bahamas Doctors Union is concerned over the qualifications of these Cuban doctors to practice medicine in the Bahamas,” he added, “and we call on the Minister of Health and the PHA to explain why they are needed.
“Notwithstanding the many concerns we have, our primary objective is the quality of healthcare that is provided to the Bahamian public.”