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Devil’s in the contract details


Devil’s in the contract details

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I CONSIDER it most unfortunate that the consultant staff members of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) have had to take industrial action following the determination of the employment of a long-serving colleague.

To imply that such a dismissal is part of the QEH board of management’s new “efforts to make the QEH a patient-centred institution rather than doctor-centred” [as stated in the SATURDAY SUN of August 14], is risible and insulting to both patients and physicians.

The chairman of the board is quoted, in the same article, as saying that under the terms of the contracts offered to consultants by the QEH, the board “may at any time determine the engagement [read ‘contract’] of the employee on giving three months notice in writing to that effect or on paying him one month’s salary”.

There appears to be an internal dissonance in that statement. The first half quite obviously refers to a “contract” between employer and employee, whereas the second is an “engagement” [if one does not wish to be disingenuous] in which the employee accepts “employment at will”.

To put it another way, the employee has demonstrated a “willingness to work” and her or his employment can be terminated without notice and without need for explanation on either side.

She or he has no “contractual obligation” to or from the employer.

I find it strange that anyone would sign a contract written so as to hold such apparently conflicting clauses.

While industrial law is not my forte, I wish the board of the QEH well in their attempts to attract “young” doctors or specialists from the Barbadian diaspora who earn in excess of US$400 000 (according to Sanjay Gupta) per annum and who have a better understanding than I do of legal and ethical employment termination.

GEORGE D. NICHOLSON, DM (Oxf), FRCP, Professor Emeritus, UWI