Jamaican doctors on sick out in midst of pandemic

(Photo: The Guardian Nigeria)

As the rest of the world celebrates Doctor’s Day, some of Jamaica’s public sector doctors have reportedly called out sick at hospitals across the island.

According to Observer Online, the medical professionals began calling on sick on Thursday (July 1) morning.

The action by the medical professionals is fuelled by the displacement of more than 140 doctors, whose employment contracts expired on Wednesday, along with other issues affecting the health care workers within the public health system.

Some health care workers took to Twitter to vent their frustration.

When contacted, Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton said he could not confirm or deny whether the public sector doctors were on sick out.

“I can’t at this point,” he replied in a WhatsApp message while adding that he could be contacted later Thursday for an update. 

However, Opposition spokesperson on Health and Wellness, Dr Maurice Guy, told the outlet that he had received reports that doctors are currently on sick out at the Spanish Town Hospital and the Mandeville Regional Hospital. 

“I have heard that at the Spanish Town Hospital and the Mandeville Regional Hospital there have been sick outs, and that the consultants have been manning the wards since morning, and they have been discharging patients who are not deemed emergency,” Guy explained. 

He said that he understands that the doctors at these hospitals are “in solidarity with their colleagues who have been denied re-employment”. 

He added that, “One hundred and forty-five doctors have not gotten any contract from the Ministry of Health nor the regional health authorities, and this is one of the four points of their sick out this morning. The other ones relate to the non-payment of allowances that are due to them, as well as some gratuity payments that are outstanding for some significant period of time.”

Meanwhile, Guy is urging the Government to “proceed with alacrity” to have the issues faced by the doctors resolved.

“We cannot at this particular time when we are in the midst of a pandemic afford to lose the services of the very doctors who we relied on during the time when we had the huge spikes of COVID-19 cases we had in this country,” he asserted. 

“The Government needs to appreciate that we are in a changing health environment where there is the need for more doctors in the system, and not what is necessarily in the establishment, which has not been reviewed for two decades in terms of the number of post within the establishment,” he continued. 

Calls placed to president of Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley for developments within the public health sector went unanswered. 

It is understood that a meeting held between officials of the island’s four regional health authorities and the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) ended on Wednesday (June 30) without some issues brought forward by the doctors being resolved.

Another meeting is said to be held between the two parties to have further dialogue on the matters affecting the nation’s doctors.