WITH more arguments back and forth yesterday between medics and the government, it is a welcome move to see the dispute being referred to the Industrial Tribunal.
That said, while that is the right move at this point, it is a shame that the matter could not be resolved without needing to go to a tribunal.
After all, this has been a dispute that has been running for some considerable time. Even late last night, as The Tribune was going to press, the Public Hospitals Authority issued a press release stating that the discussions began eight months ago – and saying that matters that were agreed between both sides are suddenly resurfacing as points of contention.
Clearly, an arbiter in the middle is needed. In the meantime, we would hope that the junior doctors would acknowledge another need – that of members of the public.
Emergency services are still being provided – but every day that the dispute continues is a day that makes life harder for non-emergency patients.
To call it an inconvenience is to understate matters. These are people who might have waited a long time for appointments. These are people who might be in unexpected distress because of an unexpected problem. Then there are the mothers in maternity wards, the elderly requiring geriatric treatment, the youngsters on the children’s ward.
With the ruling to the Industrial Tribunal, it is a requirement that strike action discontinues “forthwith”. We would hope that the junior doctors abide by that, and try to make up for the lost time while they have been out on action.
We would also hope that they would acknowledge the sense in some of the points being put forward by the PHA – such as the need for the swipe system to be implemented to be able to monitor hours rather than just trust to people’s word. Equally, the PHA should do all it can to ensure that system is implemented across the board, in clinics as well as the hospital.
As for the rest of the demands – including demands that the union was unsurprisingly unhappy were published in The Tribune on Monday – the union has to take a realistic view.
A duty-free car every three years, no property tax, splitting the profits for a car park built at public expense – these are demands that are unrealistic.
And as Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said yesterday, “They can demand whatever they want… You could tell me you want $40m (but) if we don’t have it, we don’t have it.”
It’s time for a resolution to this dispute – and it’s also time that members of the public were no longer being used as pawns in a game with unrealistic goals.
It’s no wonder the union didn’t want such demands known. It’s time now to drop them.