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Doctors defend overtime payments

Published:Saturday | October 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

WITH THE Government stating its intention to revise certain allowances paid to health workers, the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) said it is not opposed to such reform, but warned that it would be dangerous to focus on cutting expenditure in the sector.

"If you can't increase the budget by more money, you have to find a way for the sector to make money. You can't keep contracting the budget and then say the workers cost too much," Dr Shane Alexis, the MAJ president said.

During his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament in August, Horace Dalley, minister with responsibility for the public sector, said the question of the sustainability of some of the allowances payable in the health sector, such as on-call, overtime and sessions, will be reviewed.

CAPITAL INVESTMENTS

Wages and salaries represent 75 per cent of the health budget. Alexis, who was a guest at The Gleaner's Editors' Forum last Wednesday, said it is time that the Government focused on making greater levels of capital investment in the sector.

"We have not built a hospital in over 30 years; we have not expanded, we don't have chemotherapy, we have one CT scan machine to service the entire Kingston.

"In what country could you have the mind to think that 1.5 million people living in the capital city could use one machine?" he added.

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing in July, said more than 75 per cent of the recurring budget for health goes to paying salaries.

"We have a real problem with remuneration in the health sector. More than 75 per cent of the recurring budget goes into salaries. This is not sustainable. We need more health workers in the sector, but we simply cannot afford it in the present system with the present level of remuneration, including sessions and overtime. We will have to take unpopular decisions, but in the long run, they will benefit the sector," Ferguson said.