Govt still plans to put all public doctors on pensionable scheme- Ramsammy

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…says supplementary budget will be required to fix reversal decision 

Below is a commentary by Dr Leslie Ramsammy on the intended move by Government to the place public doctors on the pensionable establishment:

Dr Leslie Ramsammy

The Minister of Public Health and other APNU+AFC Government Officials insulted doctors by insisting that their fears of being shifted from contracts to the pensionable establishment were based on rumors. The Minister and her team were being dishonest. This past Monday in a hastily convened meeting with public health doctors, a meeting where the Ministry sought to limit attendance, the Minister of Public Health and other APNU+AFC officials outright told doctors there was no such plan. The Minister and her team barefacedly lied and insulted the intelligence of these indispensable professionals.

There were circulars issued by the government in February to the effect that all GMOs are to be moved from a contract arrangement to the pensionable establishment. They are now disowning these circulars. Who issued the circulars? Were these unauthorized circulars? The Minister then cannot simply dismiss the concerns of the doctors by alleging they were reacting to a rumor. She also needs to investigate the sources of these circulars and take appropriate disciplinary action. Of course, this is assuming the Minister was being honest that the circulars were unauthorized.

There is nothing wrong with the Minister deciding to reverse course and offering doctors the option they always had – a choice between a contract with a 22.5% gratuity every six-months or the public service establishment with a pension after retirement age. She could have simply acknowledged that this was a policy decision which she and APNU+AFC were willing to retreat from. This would have been the honest thing to do, but is an alien concept to APNU+AFC. They lie and use tricks and gimmicks to advance their authoritarian agenda.

On February 19, I warned that APNU+AFC was implementing the policy of moving doctors from contracts to the pensionable establishment. No one in the Ministry of Public Health or in APNU+AFC disputed my assertion then. They had not envisaged the resistance and the outrage from the doctors. As doctors became aware of the clandestine move to change their terms of employment, the doctors began a robust rejection of the plan and threatened legal and other actions. Some of the doctors even considered striking to register their concerns. This was what finally prompted the Minister to hastily convene the “consultation”.

The plan to change the employment terms of doctors was buried deep in APNU+AFC’s 2017 Budget Estimates. An examination of the Ministry of Health’s budget for 2017 reveals that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Health have made inadequate provisions for the doctors in the Ministry of Health’s employ for 2017. The sum allocated in the appropriate line item will, in fact, be fully expended by June, if the employment statistics provided in Budget 2017 is accurate.

An examination of the sums budgeted in the line item catering for professionals in the pensionable establishment demonstrates that there was a significant increase. It is evidence that Budget 2017 envisaged the end of contract arrangements for doctors and catering for them in the line item for pensionable employees. Now that the Minister of Public Health has told the doctors that there is no change, the Ministry will need to seek a virement – a movement – of funds from the pensionable establishment back to the contract line item.

But there is yet another complication. Budget 2017 did not cater for the newly appointed doctors in 2016 and 2017, including the 79 newly appointed GMOs in 2017, either in the line item covering employees under the pensionable establishment or under contracted employees. It means that the Ministry of Public Health would exhaust its budget in the contract line item even before June, since these doctors were paid from this line item also.

Come July or before, therefore, the sums allocated in both the line items for GMOs under the contracted employment and the pensionable establishment will be fully consumed and doctors in the Ministry of Health’s employment will be faced with the possibility of late payments. I suppose the government will apply for a virement to shift resources wrongly, but deliberately, placed under pensionable employees. But the Ministry of Public Health will still require a supplementary budget to cover the period July to December. This is a situation that represents gross incompetency, but also exposes their clandestine plan to shift doctors from their contracted employment.

The move to employ GMOs under the pensionable establishment and to end their contract arrangement was a real plan, never a rumor. Both the circulars that many have seen and  Budget 2017 expose this truth. Buckling under pressure and caught in a clandestine plan to arbitrarily change the terms of employment of doctors, the Minister and her officials blatantly lied to the doctors. Like they did with the parking meter contract, they are now taking a step back to buy time. Doctors should be under no illusion, the plan is real and, in spite of the assurances from the Minister, the plan is not dead.

APNU+AFC’s attempt to shift GMOs from contracted to pensionable category is a gimmick to hide the fact they have been employing a large number of people as contracted employees throughout the public service. Budget 2017 shows a significant increase in contracted employees at much higher salaries. In less than two years the number of contracted employees has surged by more than 2,000, in spite of them shifting many contracted employees into the pensionable categories. In fact, the number is much larger than this because, in addition, there are also new contracted employees who replaced those shifted into the pensionable establishment. It is gimmick, not good policy. The doctors nearly fell victim to this wicked strategy to create “jobs for the boys and girls”.

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