President of the AGMC and consultant orthopaedic surgeon at KPH talks about issues facing doctors in public hospitals.
Head of the Association of Government Medical Consultants (AGMC) Dr Konrad Lawson says that the complement of overworked and underpaid doctors in the island’s public hospitals is attributable to the Government’s refusal to get rid of an outdated job post system.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Dr Lawson said that the current complement of posts in the public health system dates back to the 1970s and is now holding back scores of young medical professionals who are often hired on contract.
“What has been done is that, instead of creating the posts that have to be funded into pension, they put the doctors into contract positions for two or three years and renew that contract religiously for 20 to 25 years every two to three years. This is for the consultants at level four down to the grades three to one,” said Dr Lawson.
His comments came on the heels of a series of articles published in the Jamaica Observer last month highlighting the plight of doctors who complained about having to work long hours with little supervision, shoddy equipment, among other things, in an overburdened free health care system.
Dr Lawson highlighted the fact that with ‘contract work’, doctors are given allowances that far exceed their basic pay and are not pensionable.
“When the time comes for the contract to be ended and not be renewed, usually at the time when the doctor has gone on to something else or they have come to the retirement age, there is no pension to pay because they have got their pension as gratuity over the years. This is what has been used to put doctors into positions instead of updating the cadre of posts for the last 50 years,” said Dr Lawson.
His concerns were echoed by president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (JMDA) Dr Elon Thompson, who told the Observer that currently at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) there are several specialist doctors who qualify for consultant positions, but who are languishing in level three positions.