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Pay hike for 1,500 doctors

Published: 
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Late night negotiation reaches resolution

The Medical Professionals Association of T&T (MPATT) has successfully negotiated a salary increase of 21 per cent for its members over the period 2009-2015.

This follows years of complaints and protest by doctors over the deplorable terms and conditions of their employment. The T&T Guardian understands some 1,500 doctors across the RHAs will benefit from the agreement.

In a release yesterday, MPATT said that at a meeting of the Joint Negotiating Team (JNT) on Thursday, which was chaired by South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) chairman Lackram Bodoe, the parties agreed to salary increments for the period.

MPATT said the new salaries would be implemented in June, whereas backpay on salaries would be paid as early as the following month, in July. 

The payment of backpay is to be expedited through the hiring of ancillary staff by the various regional health authorities (RHA), the release said.

The JNT also agreed to the reinstatement from next month of the Continuing Medical Education (CME) allowance (which provides financial support for doctors to attend continuing professional development courses). All categories of staff—House Officers, Registrars and Consultants—are to benefit from this allowance, which will be added to their salaries. 

However, there was no agreement on the CME backpay for August 2009 to May 2015. 

MPATT said that was not finalised but the JNT gave the assurance that attempts would be made to have the backpay given in tranches over one year.

Doctors are also likely to benefit from Value Added Tax (VAT) and Motor Vehicle Tax (MVT) exemptions based on a cabinet minute dated March 12, 2015

“The issue of payment of retroactive payments of VAT/MVT allowance could not be agreed. 

“However, MPATT conceded across the negotiating table with the proviso that payment of CME backpay would be given priority, by the hiring of ancillary staff to expedite the process.”

Protest goes on

Despite the agreement, some 150 doctors attached to the San Fernando General Hospital ignored a directive from MPATT and staged a peaceful protest outside the Accident and Emergency Department yesterday morning.

Dr Vijay Mahabir, president of the San Fernando General Hospital Doctors’ Association, said he understood a meeting was held and an agreement reached. However, he said, at the time of their peaceful protest they were not aware of the terms of the agreement.

The majority of the doctors wore black and ranged from house officers to consultants. Mahabir said they were standing in solidarity with their colleagues from the other regions who faced similar issues. He made it clear that the issue was not only about money, nor did they have any intention of taking strike action or causing harm to the public. 

“People are thinking our issues are mainly one of money, but it isn’t just that. We are here to highlight the fact that we work in sub-optimal conditions which we are unhappy with and which is one of the main things we want addressed in addition to our negotiations, which are long overdue.”

He identified among the conditions, “the protracted time for completion of the salary negotiations as well as the other issues relating to the conditions of work, such as security, patient care and lack of availability of medications.

“We stand here in black, united and dedicated to a cause to show the strength of the human resources of this nation, which is the wealth of the nation. We hope that all issues can be rectified in a timely manner to appease all parties involved.”

Mahabir underscored that patient care was not compromised by their action as it took place before they took up duty. He said all the doctors engaged in yesterday’s action were set to assume duty at 8 am, which they did. During their action, he said, there were doctors on the wards as well as the overnight emergency staff.

“We ensured that things were put in place so no harm would come to any patients. The public comes first and it is utmost in our priority, but at the same time we are duty-bound to raise awareness to our plight,” Mahabir said.

SWRHA CEO Anil Gosine confirmed the doctors had been on the wards working.

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