Doctors, contract workers have gratuity benefits yanked

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PPP flays Govt for unilaterally switching workers to pension

In a move some fear will precipitate a brain drain, public service professionals such as doctors have had their gratuity benefits yanked from under them. In exchange, Government will be forcing them under a pension system.

According to the documents seen by Guyana Times, the changes will apply to temporary workers and contract workers with a GS: 3 to GS: 14 salary scale. It is being done under the authority of the Public Service Commission.

Workers in these categories have until March 24, 2017, before it goes into effect. According to reports, there have been no public consultations with the affected doctors before the implementation of this policy.

During a press conference at Freedom House on Thursday, Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo flayed the Government for its clandestine move. He stated that by forcing doctors to accept the unpopular pension scheme, doctors who joined with expectations of gratuity will exit the public service as soon as their contract comes up for renewal.

The former President noted that if this happens, a health sector already suffering from drug shortages will be hit even further by a shortage of personnel, including doctors and nurses.

“We made an effort to move the country to where we would have adequate numbers of doctors in the health system. Many of them are coming back (from training) and are on five-year contracts with certain elements of the contract including gratuity.”

“This Government, as though it couldn’t find anything else to target, has now gone after the doctors. And they want all of them to become part of the pensionable establishment. Many of them don’t want to. They should give the doctors a choice.”

“My fear is they will drive a lot of the doctors out of the system. And many of those who may want to renew their contracts; they have already completed their five years (as stipulated) from their scholarship. They will just leave,” Jagdeo said.

Calls to Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence and Minister of State Joseph Harmon, went unanswered on Thursday.

Conditions in the doctors’ quarters

While a pension is a contributory arrangement, gratuity is a sum of money paid at the end of a stipulated tenure of service or upon retirement. In most cases there is a prescribed formula for calculating gratuity, thus removing the onus of determining payments from the employer.

It is understood that doctors are eligible, upon satisfactory service being provided, for gratuity at a rate of 22.5 per cent of their basic salary, calculated on the basis of three months. However, at one time, doctors could choose to receive their gratuity at six-month intervals.

It is common for such categories of workers to have a personal preference for gratuity than pension. Guyana Times understands that the move has left some doctors disillusioned and frustrated, as many began their training with gratuity enshrined in their contracts.

As if the yanking of the contractual benefits doctors enjoyed was not enough, this publication was able to view the condition of residential quarters used by doctors at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

This publication was able to observe that the quarters where doctors who are on call have to sometimes sleep, have gaping holes in the ceiling. In addition, there are overhead fans with the blades exposed. (Guyana Times)

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