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Time for change

Wade Gibbons

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THE QUEEN ELIZABETH HOSPITAL (QEH) cannot operate as it has done in the past.Nor will Government allow it to function to the disadvantage of average Barbadians.That was the pronouncement yesterday from a very senior QEH official who will be involved in emergency discussions with the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) during the week.Speaking to the DAILY NATION on condition of anonymity, and in the wake of BAMP’s concerns over the public advertising for a consultant urologist and pathologist, the official said consultants had been “ruling the QEH” for too long. He said doctors in the public sector, including those at the QEH, were hired on three-year contracts and the hospital had the right to renew or not renew those contracts. He noted the attitude of some consultants left a lot to be desired. “Some of their attendance at public clinic is very rare. Some of them are more interested in doing private cases as opposed to public cases. Many of the public cases are pushed back all the time or cancelled, while private patients who pay large sums of money are given priority at the QEH. However, this occurs with a minority of them,” he said.He noted that one of the challenges faced was that there were only a few consultant positions at the hospital. “Consultants get about $15 000 per month and are required to work a minimum of 21 hours per week. They are allowed to have a private practice and are allowed to bring their private patients to the QEH and treat them there for a fee payable to the doctor. “The senior house officers who are next in line in terms of the clinical work are oftentimes doctors who are just as well trained as the consultants. But they are on a fixed salary. They are not allowed to have private practice,” he explained.The top official said if the hospital kept renewing the contracts of the consultants, senior house officers and registrars would never get the chance to move up the ladder to be consultants themselves.“What has been happening is that the QEH has been losing the skills of mid-managers on the clinical side. They are going out into private practice exclusively, or they are leaving Barbados altogether to work abroad,” he said.He explained that the hospital could not create more posts but could create the opportunity to see who else could fill the existing consultancy positions. He revealed consultants made a minimum of $350 000 annually when their private practice and public functions were taken into consideration.He said Barbados’ primary urologist was in his 60s and one could not wait “until he drops dead” to have other options. He indicated there were Barbadian urologists based overseas who would like to return home to be considered but were afraid of “the system” at the QEH.Referring to a situation last year with a pile-up of bodies at the mortuary because autopsies were not being done, the senior official said Barbados deserved better than that.Yesterday BAMP president Dr Carlos Chase said he had no comment to make “on anything”.