Health system under threat, says Dawes
OPPOSITION shadow minister of health and wellness Dr Alfred Dawes has called on the authorities to move with alacrity to prevent a full-scale disruption to the island’s health-care system in the wake of mounting human resources challenges within the Ministry of Health.
Dr Dawes said urgent action is needed to address the growing crisis affecting health-care services, highlighting that last week South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) experienced industrial action from laboratory technicians and nurses, revealing systemic issues within the ministry.
“The current state of affairs within our health-care system is alarming. Employees are citing concerns related to compensation, working conditions, and what they perceive as a lack of responsiveness from senior managers to their grievances. The Ministry of Health must swiftly and comprehensively address the root causes of these issues to ensure the continued delivery of quality health-care services,” Dr Dawes said, emphasising the urgency of the situation.
“Unless we solve all of these issues before they bubble to the surface, then you are going to have continued disruptions in the health-care sector,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Sunday.
Dr Dawes had issued a news release on Saturday evening, in which he raised alarm over the situation.
He also expressed concern with regard to the rapid promotion of recently graduated nurses, stating that, “Hastily promoting inexperienced nurses without completing the required orientation programme is unfair to these nurses who lack the requisite experience but are expected to assume primary responsibility for patient care, without adequate supervision.
“This potentially dangerous practice jeopardises patient safety and places an undue burden on our seasoned health-care professionals. We need a strategic and sustainable approach to address staffing challenges,” he added.
In a plea to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Dawes urged collaboration, stating, “This is a critical moment for our health-care system. The ministries must work together to resolve these issues promptly, ensuring the well-being of both health-care providers and the patients they serve.”
Yesterday he also pointed to some junior doctors receiving larger salaries than consultants and seniors.
“A couple of doctors have called to thank me for bringing this to the attention of the public. It has been a serious concern that the negotiations between the consultants’ group and the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health have not been progressing. The bone of contention is that with junior doctors signing off on their salary increase, they are now compensated — in some cases — significantly more than what the consultants are being paid because their salary packages are yet to be settled.
“The offers that they have had so far are all seeing the discrepancy persisting rather than addressing the anomaly where seniors are getting less than juniors. In no profession anywhere in the world do you have a senior who is teaching, training and supervising a junior and is making less money than what the junior is making. That is what is brewing right now. It is in the same vein of the nurses’ grouses with their remuneration not being addressed until it boiled over into the industrial action we saw last week,” he pointed out.
The Observer sought comment from Errol Greene on Sunday, but the SERHA regional director described the situation as “delicate” and declined to join the discussion.