Jagdeo, Health Minister differ on doctors being removed from contract with gratuity

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2016, 15:32 by Denis Chabrol

Health Minister Dr George Norton

Health Minister Dr George Norton

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday accused government of forcing recently-trained medical doctors to leave the public health sector because they have been taken off contracts  with gratuity and placed on the pensionable establishment of Guyana’s Public Service.

Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton confirmed to Demerara Waves Online News that “they (the doctors) are employed by the Public Service for the Public Service, as is the norm, and that is the pensionable establishment.”

Jagdeo, who had negotiated several hundred scholarships with then Cuban President, Fidel Castro for Guyanese to be trained as medical doctors, said a decision had been taken to place all the Cuban-trained Guyanese doctors on a five-year contract that had included the payment of a gratuity for the contract period. “Why do want to chase these people who we have invested in from the system,” he said.

“This is going to cause major, major problems, dissatisfaction and a loss of people again- the doctors. It’s not a lot of money . It’s maybe a couple hundred million dollars per year,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Norton disagreed that there would be an exodus of the recently trained doctors, saying that they have been bound by contract. “Those doctors have contractual obligations to the Government of Guyana pertaining to their studies,” he said.

The Public Health Minister said the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition-led administration is pro-worker. “APNU+AFC  is a workers’ government and supports workers’ union. A government must not be afraid of its workers unions and must strengthen it, not adapt a system that weakens trade unions,” Norton said.

The previous administration had employed thousands of persons on contract, a situation that the Guyana Public Service Union and Guyana Trades Union Congress had repeatedly criticized on the basis that had eroded the workers’ long-term pension benefits and weakened trade unions.