Doctors in Barbados are currently on strike, as they have decided to stay away from the outpatient clinics, and not perform elective procedures.

In a touch one, touch all move, industrial action is being taken by doctors in protest over the termination of the contract of one of their consultants, radiologist Dr. Cecil Rambarat.

On Friday, another consultant, Dr. Jerry Emtage, filed an injunction in the High Court against the hospital to prevent his own termination.

Doctors have decided to extend the protest to the island's polyclinics, geriatric, and psychiatric hospitals. In all of this, junior doctors are apparently being treated as pawns in the hands of consultants who determine their job positioning, and whether they will be successful in exams.

The People's Business

In a live Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) televised broadcast, The People's Business, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Board, Reverend Guy Hewitt, reported his Board has been trying to meet unsuccessfully thus far with the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), and urged them to return to the negotiation table.

Rev. Hewitt said that the strike action by BAMP is a measure to maintain at the hospital what has been hallowed ground for them. He allowed viewers to know there is a clause in the contract for all consultants, which allows the right of disengagement (separation of working relations) for both parties (Consultants/QEH) through the giving of payment in lieu. Consultants can therefore disengage the board, or the board can disengage consultants, it is a standard term of all contracts, and does not require cause, performance issues, or even an explanation.

The Chairman went on to say that 30 years ago consultants at the hospital were appointed to a pensionable service post. However, 30 years ago the hospital took a decision to remove this form of employment so as to have greater flexibility, manageability, accountability. What is being observed, said Rev. Hewitt, is that consultants, through BAMP, are trying to seek permanent tenure at the institution.

Consultants, according to Rev. Hewitt work for about $15, 000 per month for a 21-hour work week. Despite this in some cases some doctors do not come out to their on-call duties despite being paid by the QEH

Chairman Hewitt believes doctors might want the institution to remain doctor-centred, whereas the institution is moving towards to a more patient-centred institution. This should not be strange to physicians as medical schools across the globe are now focusing on patient-centred care.

BAMP on the other hand states that it has made every attempt to meet with the Chairman and the current Board of the QEH, on issues affecting the QEH, but to date have been unsuccessful.

The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) is the umbrella organization of Barbados' doctors and medical students and its primary aim is to act in the best interests of its members and in the best interests of the medical profession.

During the People's business programme doctors not only took lashes from the Chairman, but were supported by callers into the programme who spoke about the actions, and attitudes of doctors.

Doctors Complaining for Doctors

In an article in the Daily Nation newspaper entitled Doctors at Odds, members of the BAMP have associated the consultant, Dr. Cecil Rambarat with problems affecting patient care at the hospital.

Investigations have revealed that during recent medical staff committee meetings, senior BAMP officials identified a lack of timeliness in the Department of Radiology headed by Rambarat as one of the factors that could lead to medico-legal difficulties.

At a meeting on May 20, the minutes of which the DAILY NATION was able to obtain, Dr. Haresh Thani revealed that the Accident & Emergency (A&E) Department was unable to get CT scans at night when Rambarat was on call as "he continues to refuse to come out".

According to the minutes, BAMP president Dr. Carlos Chase queried how Rambarat could "refuse to come out when each consultant receives an on-call allowance".

The ground on which the Broad of the hospital stands might not be as hallowed as that which the doctors seem to want to create for themselves, but the board is certainly standing on good ground.