Tufton commits to addressing junior doctors' concerns

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton yesterday committed to doing more to address the concerns raised by junior doctors in the public health system of sexual harassment and abuse by senior doctors.

The issues came to the fore on Monday when the Jamaica Observer reported that the juniors have had to endure instances of sexual harassment but have not lodged formal complaints out of fear of being victimised or possibly being flunked out of their programmes.

“I think we have to do more. We have to address the concerns of junior doctors and everybody else for that matter, and what we have to do is ensure confidence in the process so that persons can feel comfortable to make their appropriate reports and that due process takes its course,” the minister told Beyond the Headlines host Dionne Jackson Miller on Radio Jamaica.

The doctors had indicated to the Observer that some consultants have been preying on either them or their colleagues, sending sexually explicit photos to them by text on social media messaging platform WhatsApp.

The doctors also alleged that consultants have been disrespectful, have subjected them to long hours without ensuring compensation, and have been vindictive.

The doctors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said they have never reported the issues because consultants have the power to “end” their careers.

Yesterday, the minister confirmed that there had been only three reported cases involving staff at public hospitals across the regional authorities last year.

In two cases the accused have been terminated. The other case is ongoing.

Dr Tufton said the health and wellness ministry will intervene to ensure transparency in the process which determines whether or not a doctor is allowed to specialise.

“At the policy level, we can determine, through review, what the policies are —this is from the policy that new arrangements and procedures will flow. At the ministry level we have a HR (human resource) unit that provides a sort of oversight over problems. We have influence with the training and so if it is a case of summoning the experts overseas and having a discussion with them to make adjustments where necessary and to build confidence in the process, I think it's something I would be more than willing to engage in,” the minister said.

Dr Tufton, in the meantime, urged the junior doctors to report cases of sexual harassment as per the manual on policies and procedures, arguing that the system can only be judged on the number of reports made.

He told the Observer in a follow-up interview that the next step is the sensitisation of the process in order to raise awareness, as well as commission a review of the confidentiality procedures.

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