|Dr. Dexter James,Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.?? (Photo from QEH Connect)??|
Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Dr. Dexter James, has expressed "regret" at the time it has taken the Board of Management to respond to proposals by the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), on the terms and conditions of service for doctors.
He was addressing statements attributed to the President of BAMP, Dr. Carlos Chase, in an article in a section of the Press which accused the hospital of exploiting doctors.
Dr. James acknowledged that a team comprising BAMP and QEH representatives met consistently over a three-month period and a series of recommendations were submitted to the Board for consideration. He noted that those recommendations were reviewed by the Human Resources Committee which conducted a final review before formal feedback could be given to BAMP.
"I would like to personally commend BAMP for working with QEH management in an amicable and respectful manner, while reviewing their proposal on the Terms and Conditions of Service for doctors. The timeline for getting feedback to BAMP, however, is regrettable.
"On the subject of entertainment allowances not being paid, there are outstanding allowances which predate the QEH Board. We have computed the outstanding amount at just over $2 million, however, special funding would be required to fulfill this payment for consultants at S4 grade," the CEO said:
He continued: "with regards to BAMP’s comments on employment practices, there are consultants whose contracts have not been renewed, however, this is either because matters relating to their contracts are in court or their required performance appraisals remain incomplete and, as a result, these consultants are working on a month-to-month basis."
Dr. James explained that the QEH Board took a position that in such circumstances, "as long as the consultant remains engaged and continued to provide services to patients, they will be paid in accordance with the previous contract of employment until a determination by the court has been made or appraisal reports have been finalised".
??On the question of gratuity, the QEH CEO said the hospital was not averse to paying gratuity, however, he pointed out that the Board was guided by the Ministry of the Civil Service.
"…And, in accordance with that Ministry’s stipulations, a person working on a month-to-month basis is not entitled to gratuity. So, where doctors working at the QEH have matters in court or outstanding appraisals, their contract status cannot be regularised but they can enjoy all other benefits outside of gratuity," he asserted.
In relation to the charges made about junior doctors who were on three to six month contracts, the hospital CEO explained that those doctors were on "locum" assignments – a short-term employment practice that had been used within health systems for many years. He said it was no different at the QEH.
??"Junior doctors who do locum assignments are on temporary employment and not on contract as they are filling in either until a contract appointed officer returns from leave or an existing vacancy being rotated is filled by contract appointment. They are paid at the same rate as a contract appointed position. However, their vacation is accrued based on periods worked and they are not entitled to study or special leave as is the case for contract appointed officers," Dr. James said.
He called for an urgent and comprehensive review of the Terms and Conditions of Service for employees of the QEH in order to make it more relevant to the current realities of managing the hospital.
Dr. James said that at a time when the country was facing severe economic challenges, bodies like BAMP needed to work closely with the management of the hospital to develop an environment of good industrial relations practices.
"In the spirit of the season, I pray the New Year will be prosperous for all and that we will continue to have an environment of industrial peace," he said.