The Ministry of Health will be hiring nine additional doctors to address some of the concerns that forced Junior Doctors at the nation’s major hospitals from engaging in a limited form of industrial action.
According to Health Minister Nickolas Steele, the nine additional doctors would be into the system to help tackle some of the problems at the St. George’s General Hospital and to generally improve Grenada’s Health Care system.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing held at Ministerial Complex, the senior government minister indicated that the decision to bring in more doctors was taken to address concerns raised in December by the House Doctors at the General Hospital.
The new Health Minister recalled that the house doctors had withdrawn their on-call services because they felt that some of their requests and demands were not being met.
The previous Minister of Health was Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen who was switched to the Foreign Affairs portfolio in a direct swap with Steele in a Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The Junior doctors had met with Minister Steele just before Christmas Day and issued an ultimatum to help to address their concerns.
The minister indicated that he had been engaged in “consistent consultation” with the Junior Doctors and the Public Workers Union (PWU) to try and resolve the issues.
“…We have moved from what I would say (was) a contentious environment as of the middle of December to one of full co-operation and understanding”, he said.
“… I agree that we now have a working relationship and understanding, a level of trust that will afford them to come back to work to offer their services as is expected and for us to work together as a team in the improvement of health care”, he added.
Minister Steele was optimistic that a solution has been found and the situation is less contentious at the moment.
“I have been able to convince them that we have a plan that they can see things working but the most significant part of that were the decision and the very quick implementation of hiring of new doctors
into the system,” he told reporters.
Minister Steele announced that the nine new doctors who are intern graduates from St George’s University (SGU) along with some others who have applied for work at the nation’s public health institutions should be assuming duties on February 1.
“The Ministry of Health has worked with DPA (Department of Public Administration) as well as with the Medical Council to ensure that these doctors get registered and licensed and contracts within the month of January so that they can take up full operations within the month of February”, he said.
The house doctors were complaining of being over-worked as they were asked to remain on-call for several hours each day.
Minister Steele appeared confident that the deal worked out with the Junior Doctors would specifically address that concern.
He said: “This (agreement) allows the system not to stress those existing house doctors that were there. It affords them more time, although they will continue to work the expected 40 hours a week. It affords a more structured Roster for them, it affords the ability that if one were to fall sick, there was not an absence of doctors in the system where it would be expected…be it a District Medical Office but I am speaking specifically to our various hospitals or our wards within the hospital…”.
Minister Steele also used the press conference to address complaints from some nurses about their status within the Public Service since they were only being hired on short-term work contracts.
He told reporters: “In the past 2 weeks, various nurses have been called in to either renew contracts or extend contracts. In areas where contracts are extended it is to give us enough time, myself included and in particular to work with this group to adjust what exist, whether it is to strengthen numbers, whether it is to make sure that people are performing to expectations, that people are receiving what they expect from the system as well so that we can properly implement new contracts where contracts weren’t originally renewed”.