Govt makes U-turn on imposition

first_imgDoctors’ gratuity to pensionMedical doctors currently employed in the public health system on contracts will not be forced under the pension system, but will have the option of switching if they so desire.This was the outcome of a consultation held at the National Cultural Centre on Monday that saw a large group of doctors in attendance.Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence, who was present for that meeting, assured the medical doctors that the transition would not affect their current plans.The Minister said while her portfolio was new, it was no excuse for her to not ensure that matters arising from the health sector were resolved amicably.Lawrence also vowed to continue dialogue with doctors to ensure that their concerns were taken into consideration before any decision was made in the future.She claimed that there were certain misconceptions about the pension plan for doctors, and blamed poor communication for the issue.“I will have a meeting with the heads to ascertain how can you not share information of such important nature which affects people’s lives? I mean it’s unacceptable and so, as the Minister, the buck stops with me,” Lawrence said.Doctors were initially told that their contracts would automatically end and they would be switched over to the permanent public service employment package, which also includes a pension scheme.Leading most of the discussions was Permanent Secretary in the Public Health Ministry, Reginald Brotherson, who was criticised for most of his responses to the many questions he was asked.The doctors believed that Brotherson was not clear and one doctor even labelled his response “political”.However, he told the concerned medical practitioners that they would be able to decide whether they wanted to join the public service and the pension’s scheme at the end of their five-year contract.He also took the opportunity to clarify with the doctors some of the advantages of joining the public service.The Permanent Secretary admitted that several circulars detailing the changes were dispatched to all heads of department. But it was only realised after their release that the time frame was too limited.While some of the doctors present at the meeting saw the circulars, others did not, but heard from their colleagues about the change and decided to raise their concerns with their seniors.Public Health Minister Volda LawrenceThey spoke about the last circular which was issued on February 7, 2017, which indicated that they would have been placed in the pension scheme within a month.One of the doctors who spoke out against the policy, Dr Adoni Benjamin told officials that he felt disrespected by the Government, because the change in his working arrangements would ultimately affect his family too.“First of all, as human beings, some courtesy should have been extended to us,” he stated.Another doctor, who spoke with Guyana Times on the sidelines of the meeting, expressed deep concern over the move, claiming that a proper explanation was not provided.The young Cuba-trained doctor who requested anonymity claimed that when the first circular was issued, some of his colleagues decided to sign contracts to join the public service.“They did so out of fear that their salary will be withheld, or they would have been sent home. Some of them were tricked to go over, because some of them did sign.”The doctor said while he was happy that the Government has backpedalled on its decision, this issue could have been avoided if consultations were held first.The affected doctors also raised concerns about the measly $1800 which they are paid for on-call duties, with no overtime or benefits such as time-and-a-half pay.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had said that forcing doctors to accept the unpopular pension scheme meant the physicians would exit the public service.The Government had made a commitment to meet with the doctors at another date, to discuss the finer details of the arrangement to have them transitioned to the public sector pension scheme.last_img read more