Doctors insist on getting their $200 million
JMDA sickened by delay in gratuity payments to its membersSunday, May 09, 2021
BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
THE Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) is frustrated over the delay in payments of $200 million in gratuity to its members.
JMDA President Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley said 80 per cent of the $200 million is owed by the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), plus there are issues with delay in salary payments and non-payment or late payment of salary deductions.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Dr Fitz-Henley said the majority of persons have been owed for three years, but there were few who had been owed for up to five years, resulting in disquiet among members.
“We are just more frustrated than anything else. They owe us money all the time and we have to be begging for our owed money that we have worked for. It is very upsetting when it is that we are trying to get that [money] and we can't get it. We can't get hazard pay, our salary deductions are late, our pay is late and on top of that you can't get your gratuity. It's just a combination of things,” Dr Fitz-Henley said.
“Gratuity is part of our contracts that we sign. It is for 15 to 20 per cent gratuity. Remember we don't have pension. This is in lieu of that. At the end of each contract, whether it's a two- or three-year contract you are eligible for your gratuity. At the end of your contract you are supposed to just put in your paperwork to receive it and people are just waiting donkey years to get their gratuity. When we did our adding up, it was basically $200 million that was owed and SERHA owed 80 per cent of that amount,” Dr Fitz-Henley continued.
Further, Dr Fitz-Henley said a meeting was held with Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dunstan Bryan and representatives from SERHA and North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA), where the minister reiterated that he had instructed the regions to desist from withdrawing salary deductions and not paying it to the respective institutions.
Dr Fitz-Henley added that the regional technical director from SERHA vowed to look into the matter, while the representative from NERHA was unaware of doctors being owed gratuity. She said information from the Western Regional Health Authority was that a few doctors' gratuity was at the auditor level and they were almost ready to be paid. She said no response was received from the Southern Regional Health Authority.
Meanwhile, former JMDA President Dr Alfred Dawes has expressed surprise that this matter has resurfaced.
“This again? This came up in my time when Dr Kevin Harvey was permanent secretary and we came to a compromise to pay off the gratuity and cut it from 25 per cent from the end of contract for a two-year to 15 per cent. At the end of a period you're supposed to get up to 25 per cent of your basic salary for your gratuity. Government has traditionally not been paying over the gratuity. One of the ways they got around having to pay gratuity was that they kept giving doctors temporary letters of employment of one year. Now you can only get gratuity if you're employed two years or more. That was unfair to the doctors because they could not do any planning, they could not take a one-year letter of employment to the bank, they couldn't get any loans,” Dr Dawes said.
“It was also unfair doing the same work, under different conditions of employment where some people were getting contracts and others were just getting these letters of employment. One of the things we worked out was that everyone would get a two-year contract, three year in most cases and efforts were made back then to clear the backlog of gratuity that was outstanding, which was done,” added Dr Dawes. “I find it surprising we are back here again. To then Permanent Secretary Kevin Harvey's credit they kept their word and the JMDA at that time was satisfied they had moved to a place where the doctors and the Ministry of Health had a manageable situation and the compromise was made on both sides.”
The JMDA president said that the permanent secretary committed to paying all gratuity owed to doctors paid by the regions within the next pay cycle, which is two months, and said the health minister has asked to be kept up to date on the matter by the JMDA.
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