By Aggrey B. Irons, Guest Columnist
On October 13, an article emblazoned on the front page of The Gleaner sought to express concern regarding the fact that our doctors and nurses are overworked because they do overtime in their government-related jobs. A direct link was made between this overtime activity and a decrease in the efficiency of health delivery by these professionals.
This line of reasoning and paralogic is not only disingenuous but also transparently deceptive and duplicitous. These must be the carefully engineered words of someone who was briefed to present and prepare, or perhaps even to defend, a case of negligence on behalf of an employee or service provider.
As a professional organisation, however, we cannot come to conclusions without evidential facts. The following facts are absolutely true:
1 Jamaican doctors, nurses and the professionals aligned to medicine, e.g., pharmacists, lab technicians, etc., are recognised internationally as among the best trained and experienced English-speaking health-care professionals and are in high demand around the world.
2 Successive Jamaican governments have been unable to offer these professionals the appropriate remuneration and working facilities to successfully entice many of them to remain in the government health services and have actively promoted brain drain.
3 The brightest, the best, and the fittest of our primary, secondary and tertiary students have historically shown a preference not only for pursuing the PROFESSIONS but have also been facilitated by the sacrifices of their relatives and teachers who have promoted high feelings of nationalism.
4 These professionals have long since recognised that their daily work requires time and energy for which they will never be fully paid, and their willingness and ABILITY to perform extra work and extra shifts is legendary.
5 Even with the payment of overtime emoluments, the salary of the Jamaican health professional never equates to that of his or her peers anywhere in the Caribbean, much less the First World.
6 Successive Jamaican governments have identified payments to the health professionals in the civil service as part of the impediment to sealing a deal with the International Monetary Fund, while acknowledging the dilemma that these professionals are grossly underpaid.
7 No government wants to be identified as the author or perpetrator of a decrease in the excellent health-care standards expected by the Jamaican people. These standards have been achieved on the backs of the workers themselves, who work relentlessly without proper sanitation, security and even without the provision of timely modern tests and equipment. Many health-care professionals literally have to beg for donations to subsidise their conditions and maintain the well-being of patients.
8 The Medical Council, Nursing Council and Pharmaceutical Council are the well-established legal bodies that have governed successfully ethical and professional practices and have consistently protected Jamaicans against any diminution of standards and have been able to discipline health professionals who have acted unethically within their legal and professional purview.
9 All Jamaicans are aware that our Spanish-speaking neighbours to the north have trained a large cadre of health workers, including some of our own young people. Last year at this time, the regional health authorities were actively involved in recruitment of a large number of health workers from other cultures whom they wished to substitute and supplement our local situation, while hopefully limiting costs to the satisfaction of international monetary organisations.
10 Ever since the sons and daughters of independent Jamaica have been substituting as the professional class to replace our British colonial masters, there has been a creeping devaluation not only of our economy, but also of the services and status of these professionals who are now repeatedly referred to as 'technicians'.
11 The regional health authorities have an employer-employee relationship with the medical professionals and have not equated its responsibility with its assumed authority for maintaining the high standards which it found in the health-care sector when they came into being as an additional layer of bureaucracy a few years ago.
The Jamaican people will not be fooled by this new chapter in the blame game, and you are aware of the fantastic service that your sons and daughters have offered to you through the years in spite of substandard working conditions.
Bear in mind that Jamaican professionals may not be physically the fastest people in the world, but intellectually we have always been rated among the fastest and the fittest and the most willing to shoulder the burden of hard work involved in nation building.
Aggrey B. Irons is president of the Medical Association of Jamaica. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.