Jamaican doctors call in sick

KINGSTON — Scores of persons were turned away from hospitals and clinics across the island yesterday after close to 60 per cent of the 2,500 government-paid doctors stayed off the job in protest against the impending reclassification exercise to be undertaken during the 2013-2014 financial year.

The Ministry of Health was up to late last night still monitoring hospitals and other health facilities across the island following the sickout by the doctors who are attached to the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association and the Medical Association of Jamaica.

According to the ministry, hospitals and other medical facilities islandwide were placed in emergency mode as 59 per cent of doctors at public health centres did not report for work, while 54 per cent were absent at the public hospitals and the University Hospital of the West Indies.

Health officials said the disgruntled doctors took industrial action to voice their concern over the impending reclassification exercise.

Contingency measures

However, the ministry said it was able to put contingency measures in place and activate its emergency protocol.

“In light of the high level of absenteeism, the Ministry of Health and regional health authorities have activated the emergency protocol, putting in place contingency measures,” the Ministry of Health stated in a release to the media.

At the same time, hospitals continue to offer emergency services only, cancelling outpatient appointments as well as rescheduling elective surgeries.

Up to press time, doctors were still locked in a meeting, with no indication as to when they would return to work.

Lyttleton Shirley, chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority – the authority responsible for the delivery of health-care services to residents in St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Kingston and St. Andrew – said the development had a major impact on operations at hospitals in these parishes.

“It did have a major impact on our operations, clinics had to be rescheduled and (only) patients on emergency basis were being dealt with,” said Shirley.

Yesterday’s development left hundreds of patients in jitters.

During a tour of the Kingston Public Hospital, scores of patients said they were turned away as there were no doctors available to see them. (Observer)

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