Patients made to wait as GPH doctors call in sick
-administration notes continuing talks on new recognition agreement
Stabroek News
February 5, 2004

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Several junior doctors at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) called in sick yesterday just as the nurses wrapped up a two-day protest over allowances.

Several General Medical Officers (GMOs) called in sick and this newspaper saw numerous patients waiting for attention at the various clinics and departments.

The nurses are protesting for an increased meal allowance of $20,000 per month and a risk allowance of $4,000. Several on the 7 am to 3 pm shift again could be heard chanting slogans in the hospital compound demanding their grievances be addressed.

Meanwhile, a press release from the GPHC yesterday confirmed the action by the doctors as well as the continuing nurses' protest.

According to the release, some doctors later reported for duty after they were invited to undergo medical examinations while others continued to claim that they were unwell.

Stabroek News understands that the doctors were asked to report to the office of Director of Medical Services, Dr Madan Rambarran to undergo this examination.

It is not clear what the doctors will do when the nurses resume duties today.

In relation to the nurses' demands the release says both the GPSU and the leaders of the branch representing the nursing staff are aware that the GPHC cannot breach agreements or decisions relevant to meal and risk allowances until ongoing negotiations produce a new agreement.

According to the release, the management is bound by the rates now being paid to public servants.

With respect to the doctors' demands, the hospital acknowledged some toilet and kitchen facilities in their quarters were in need of repair, but added that major repair work began on Friday.

The task undertaken by the hospital's own carpentry staff, is fully known to the doctors as well as the fact that call rooms had been provided in sections of the hospital currently being rehabilitated such as the medical and maternity wards, the release says.

The hospital's management accused nurses, doctors and their bargaining agent, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) of being less than factual in relation to their grievances and demands.

According to the hospital's release, the GPSU is completely aware of the status of both the current recognition agreement between it and the GPHC as well as the responsibilities of Chief Executive Officer, Michael Khan.

"While it is true and factual that under the provision of Section 6 of the Georgetown Public Hospital Order (No.3) of 1999, 'the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement continues to be in force," it may be changed by a new one between the parties."

The union had on January 27 replied to correspondence from the management, submitting counter-proposals on 'Draft Procedures for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes', the GPHC release says. The release says this shows that the GPSU is aware that negotiations are now underway to institute a new recognition agreement as a prelude to a new Collective Labour Agreement.

This would be more in keeping with the corporation's new status, which places it outside of the governmental public service.

Vice Chairman, Branch #6 Carol Persaud said that the nurses had given management one month's notice of their intention to proceed on industrial action should their demands not be met.

According to Persaud, they had also sent a letter to management informing them about the sit-out and its reasons.

However management in a press release on Tuesday had said that the nurses had not informed the hospital about their intention to stage a sick- out.

She acknowledged that while the nurses were not at their posts, skeleton staff were present in critical areas.

Claims that foreign doctors were being treated better than their local counterparts have been rejected by hospital sources.