The Guyana government on Monday assured that it would not be breaking contracts with the hundreds of doctors that are being paid higher salaries and gratuities, even as officials appealed to the medical workers to transition to the permanent and pensionable establishment.
“The government of Guyana is prepared to honour contractual agreements,” Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Department of the Ministry of the Presidency, Reginald Brotherson told doctors at a meeting held at the National Cultural Centre. “We are not going to annul anybody’s contract before its gestation period…We are saying here and now that your five year contract to serve the people of Guyana will not be annulled ,” he said.
Brotherson said doctors are free to join the permanent pensionable public service or at a minimum six months before the contract expires or after the expiration.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, the Guyana Medical Association had suggested that if government had gone ahead and employed the doctors before the end of the five years that would have amounted to a breach of contract. The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had strongly suggested that legal action would have been taken against government.
Concerns were also raised about the GYD$100 Housing Allowance under the permanent pensionable public service compared to GYD$600 as a contract worker.
Dr. Lindo questioned whether the doctors would be required to transition and whether and how long they would be paid gratuities. “Many of us are young, now starting families at the start of our lives. We have plans, we budgeted for what we are getting now. For you to come forward all of a sudden and tell us of a change and the rumours of the removal of a part of our income is life-changing,” he said, adding that the gratuities have been used to buy houses and cars.
The Permanent Secretary said under the public service there would be no gratuity every six months. He said bonded employees are required to serve Guyana for five years or three years and an employment contract for three years. He said at the end of the five-year contract, government would transition them to be appointed by the public service. However, doctors are free not to take up employment in the permanent pensionable employment.
He said the transition would require doctors to submit birth and skilled certificates to be verified and then apply to the Public Service to be employed based on a vacancy inventory.
Brotherson said the parallel public service is unconstitutional and does not guarantee protection in the same way does the Public Service Commission, Public Service Appellate Tribunal and the Court system.
“These are processes to protect a person’s constitutional right so being employed by the Public Service means you are protected by an umbrella ; the issue of promotion- you are the best candidate for the job, you are promptly promoted and you serve. The question of retirements and pensions and benefits is guaranteed under the constitution of Guyana,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Region Four Regional Health Officer Dr. Bissember said she disregarded a request from the Director of the Regional Health Services that only two doctors from the region should have represented their colleagues, and instead put in place measures to treat patients.
“I did not stop the doctors from coming here today. The office of the Regional Health Officer did not o such. What we did is put measures in place so that our patients will be covered, that our patients will not suffer. So I am just asking that we get it clear that it wasn’t a decision with the REO nor the RHO made to send that publication out or to tell the doctors that only certain persons should be here today,” she said.
The doctors were also told of their leave entitlement in the permanent pensionable establishment.
Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence urged the doctors to submit their contact information so that government can dispatch the terms and conditions of employment by the public service. She also told the doctors that they would be free to send questions about the terms and conditions before organising a second and longer meeting, most likely on a Saturday and Sunday.