Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Tufton points doctors to CARICOM - Out-of-work physicians in waiting room as minister reviews hiring gaps

Published:Wednesday | July 15, 2020 | 12:26 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska (centre), listens as Dr Michelle-Ann Dawson (second right), senior medical officer of the Bustamante Hospital for Children, discusses the functions of a ventilator insi
Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska (centre), listens as Dr Michelle-Ann Dawson (second right), senior medical officer of the Bustamante Hospital for Children, discusses the functions of a ventilator inside a high-dependency unit at the hospital on Tuesday. Looking on are Bustamante Hospital Chairman Kenneth Benjamin (left), Belgium Ambassador Hugh Verbist (second left), and Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness.

The more than 100 doctors currently unable to secure jobs in the public health sector have been urged by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton to explore private practice domestically or seek employment at other hospitals across the Caribbean.

The minister said these options as well as several other issues were discussed during a meeting with representatives from the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), and the regional authorities.

“There is the option of CARICOM. It is a regional institution and there are shortages in other islands. To the extent that free movement is a problem, we could always intervene,” he told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

The Sunday Gleaner had revealed that scores of doctors were unable to secure jobs in the public sector, while the contracts of some had been terminated after they were successfully recruited. Tufton subsequently stated that UHWI, in particular, had hired twice the numbers that are allowed in the establishment.

The health minister described Tuesday’s meeting as “good”, as efforts were made to clarify the hiring policy.

“As it relates to the immediacy of what is happening now. What I have committed to doing is to look at the gaps in the public health system, look at the numbers that are there, and to the extent that we can get the funding to support that, then we would be certainly willing to take more persons on, and I have made that commitment to the doctors,” he said.

He also cited “a bit of inefficiency in areas of the management of the process of recruitment” – a matter he has raised with regional health authorities in their processing of interviewees.

President of the JMDA, Dr Elon Thompson, said there were no immediate solutions to the challenges currently being experienced. He said that 103 doctors have been shown to be out of work.

“The meeting, for me, was more structured towards trying to work on systems that are in place and to make systems more efficient and to try and make communication more apparent,” he said.

“The university is producing more and more doctors. There has to be communication between the university and the ministry and the regional health authorities,” said Thompson.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com