Minister Tells Junior Doctors “Hold Strain”-While Government Gives Away FREE Healthcare.

Yesterday the Ministry of Labour got the courts to issue an injunction to prevent junior doctors from taking action as it relates to pay. Unlike the teachers or other public sector workers, the doctors are not seeking any retroactive/pay increase. They simply want to get paid for their overtime.

I was watching the news yesterday and basically what I was hearing from the Minister of Health Mr. Rudy Spencer was that the government simply can not afford to pay the doctors.

Excuse me while I scratch my head and ponder this for a while. I can not imagine myself working overtime and not being paid for it, even partially. According to the news some doctors work 90 hours per week outside the scope of the 40 hours. They did indicate that the doctors are being paid partially for the overtime I think, but must. Who in their right mind would work an extra 50 hours per week for nothing? Even the most altruistic of souls in these challenging times would find a second job before working for free.

What seems most striking to me is the governments response that they simply do not have the money, a familiar expression I am hearing is “hold strain?”.

“What the government is asking the doctors to do is to hold strain like any other public sector worker for the second tranche of payment which is due on April 1… If we were to pay that it amounts to 912 million dollars which at this time the government can ill afford. We will look at it later on, but in no way shape or form can the government of Jamaica accommodate such claims.”—–Ruddy Spencer ,Minister of Health

“Hold Strain” –I hate that expression, I really don’t know fully what is means but I infer they are saying ummmm, carry this bucket of water even though it is heavy and you are not getting any of it or We can’t afford to pay you so do it for free or partially free. A large part of the health budget will go towards paying health sector workers which lament to the fact that government is just too big not just health but over all. I am not implying massive layoffs and cuts but over time our goal should be reducing government and allow a greater segment of our people to contribute in private enterprises.

At the same time the government was telling junior doctors to “hold strain” because the government can not afford to pay them, the government was busy bulldozing 25 people on squatter land in Westmoreland for being delinquent in payment to regularize their humble settlements. Ironic isn’t it?. Asking for understanding but showing none, why didn’t they “Hold Strain” on these people who “can not afford” to pay at the moment. This is like asking mercy but showing none. I know the ministry of housing is different from health but the government is one whole unit.

I can understand and sympathize more with the junior doctors because they are not asking for a pay increase, they simply want to be paid for their overtime according to their contract.

I have glanced over several long boring articles in both major newspapers about the inefficiencies in the health sector especially since this “free” user fee policy was introduced. They all argue against the policy stating that it was a bad idea. I sense motives in some of the arguments, for example, medical professionals which include private doctors, labs and radiology etc feel that the government is taking away their bread and butter, others who are more affluent would not be caught dead in a public health facility and cringe of the though that their tax dollars are being spent on services they will never use or some who are strong believers in true economics (capitalists) logical, practical minds who oppose any type of socialized government whether it be healthcare or welfare. There are also some in perfect health- they hardly if ever visit a doctor who believe in our own immortality and think they will never get sick so they either don’t care or think it should not be fee since we will never need it.

The government is reluctant to reverse the decision to make healthcare free. They may be reluctant to track back because it would appear to be breaking a campaign promise. The opposition would have a hands up- “I told you so” or “see why we can’t trust them”, “they break their promise”. Everyone wants to ponder to “poor people” even if it means bad policy.

What does this means, policy and politics are inseparable. I do not know exactly how the revenue and expenses system operate in the health ministry but the reality of the situation is that the cost of free is just too expensive. A rounded figure pronounce during the election was that it would cost government roughly two billion a year to provide free healthcare. According to the reports in this article it would cost the government roughly one billion to meet their obligations with junior doctors.

The question here is would it be reasonable to re-introduce user fees in hospitals to meet pay the doctors even partially? To save face the government can explain to clear reason for doing this such as budgetary constraints, to save even more face the most vulnerable of the populace would still be excluded from user fees such as the elderly and children and of course to meet salary obligations to health sector workers.

Some salient questions are: what will happen during the 28 days the court injunction is in effect, what negotiations will take place and if there is no break through will the health sector be at pains for really bad health policy. What will happen when nurses start their march toward more pay?

I can also see the government’s constraints not just because of this “global economic crisis” but for as long as I have been reading and watching a ballooning debt and borderline miniature growth contractions of our economy. I think the Move by Prime Minister Golding to cut his own salary and recommend members of parliament do the same is a very good gesture. Most Jamaicans especially in the public sector should see this as a symbolic gesture of patriotic flavor. Asking for a salary increase in these times looks selfish and greedy. Some might be wondering how I can say this while at the same time arguing that junior doctors should get their money. There is a difference asking for overtime money as to asking for a salary increase. In the health sector we have a big FREE which is horrible policy which in many ways might have a direct impact on the doctors who probably are working longer because of increase work that FREE attracts and then not getting paid for it, at least in the way they should.

How would Jamaicans react to the realities of closing some hospitals and clinic and the partial reintroduction of user fees. I like the idea with a practical approach to making the existing system work more efficiently by reducing fraud, paper work, double work, computerized outdated system, etc. We can also concentrate more on promoting healthier lifestyle rather than treating illnesses. Some of these things will cost money initially but it would be worth it in the long run.


~ by RB on April 18, 2009.

3 Responses to “Minister Tells Junior Doctors “Hold Strain”-While Government Gives Away FREE Healthcare.”

  1. I have to make it public. It’s suppose to be secret, however most people in Austin, Tx knows about it. The police department has machine that can read your mind. A machine that can read someone’s mind will be used to violate EVERYONE’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!!! It can also change the way you feel. Sexual impulses, anger, and paranoia are all feelings they can induce to you at their fingertips. This means it can cause a girl or boy to feel sexual, and get raped thinking they wanted to. Its like a drug. This is just one of the many crimes they commit with this machine RIGHT NOW!!!! They are using it right now to spy on their citizens RIGHT NOW!!! People will be spied on in there homes, without a warrant. (this means someone will be able to watch you during sex without your knowledge.) There are a lot of people all over the United States knowing about this machine. The police department is able to use it to spy on people in their own home. During interrogation they keep a person dazed, confused and not sound of mind to cohersed them into making certain statements. This is a violation of these people’s constitutional rights. Start thinking about how the government has given the police department a weapon to commit not only one of the biggest civil and constitutional rights violations of all time, but to commit war crimes such as rape, brainwashing, and toturing people without the victim’s knowledge. I know it is hard to believe, however if you happen to know someone in the police department who cares for you enough, just ask if they have a machine that can read and control people’s mind. After that, I would also like people to think about how we are able to get the government to stop letting the police department violate the people’s civil and constitutional rights, and committing war crimes against there own citizens. Major media companies have knowledge of this, but are not willing to broadcast it. People need to find out and talk about this issue.

  2. Quite a conundrum the government has found itself into. I just can’t understand how the government of a poor country that can’t supply basic facilities and produce to earn foreign exchange expects to provide free education and free health care. I think the JLP put their size 13 foot in their mouth and all the pieces are falling apart. Politicians and their promises… they’ll do anything for power, even if it’s to the detriment of the country.

  3. Stunner many international agencies do not consider Jamaica to be a poor nation, but you could have fooled me. Over the years we have borrowed our way into a hole that’s so deep its hard to see the light.

    Even with the trillion dollar deficit we don’t have great infrastructure to show for it. If most of this money was used for greater development especially in areas that can generate income like the productive sector then the country could realize better productivity.

    I don’t know the percentage of the money used on what but it would appear most of it was spent on meeting recurring obligations like paying public sector wages. I am a skeptical person when it comes on to FREE. I believe that yes somethings are so important all human beings should have access to it, the fact still remains that there is a cot and someone has to pay.

    I think Jamaicans are reasonable people and if the government has to make adjustments to these two policies may have been gimmicks in silly season then now in this so called “crisis” is the best time to do so. If it is even to implement a “cost-sharing program where government meet us half way and we take responsibility for the other half. This type of partnership seems more reasonable. I although I am skeptical about freeness I think education should be given special attention, but this too can be adjusted to a degree which is reasonable.

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