Khan: I am powerless to change salaries
HEALTH MINISTER Dr Fuad Khan said yesterday he had no power to improve the salaries of nuerosurgeons in the public healthcare system.
The task of negotiating and setting salaries belonged to the Personnel Department and its Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Stephanie Lewis, said Khan.
He described the salary rate of medical specialists in the public sector as "atrocious", but said there was little he could do to intervene, since the salaries were determined by the CPO.
The regional health authorities (RHAs), he said, were considered a corporate body and supposed to be able to determine salaries for their employees at a competitive rate. But for "some strange reason", Khan said, the CPO was in total control of the RHAs' salary arrangements.
Khan was asked for comment on the longstanding medical crisis at San Fernando General Hospital, where patients with severe head injuries have to be transferred to hospitals in north Trinidad because there has been no full-time neurosurgeon at the San Fernando hospital for the past five years.
According to the law, RHAs can "fix qualifications and terms and conditions of service, except that salaries and allowances in excess of $150,000 per annum in the aggregate shall be subject to the minister's approval."
Khan said the Government can afford to pay higher salaries.
"Until we could get the proper remuneration for staff at the public institutions for doctors and nurses at the intensive care units (ICU), whoever they may be, then these types of problems would not occur. However the supply of nuerosurgeons are very limited and (also) ICU nurses. The CPO and others will have to decide whether they want to continue in the manner of remunerations which they are doing, or allow it to be a supply and demand situation where we could offer better remunerations to the other staff."
The Minister added: "I am trying my best to get nuerosurgeons into the system but it is up to them."
President of the Medical Professionals Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MPATT) Dr Shehenaz Mohammed agreed with Khan.
"The CPO is keeping back the entire process of moving forward. The CPO needs to do her work and send MPATT a proposal. We need to sit at a table and negotiate for proper remunerations for the doctors, especially the senior doctors of which we are in need," she said.
"That way we can be able to attract. We have many nationals abroad and we should be able to attract them to come back home with respect to the neurosurgeon. The external market value of a nuerosurgeon is nowhere near what the CPO is offering at this point in time. We need to get our remuneration packages in line with what our locals abroad would be willing to return home for.
"We cannot be depending on the CPO to give you percentage increases. The needs are too wide, too varied and too urgent. They do not understand what the plights of the workers are."
Mohammed said the Ministry of Health and the RHAs need to collaborate with the CPO to determine salaries.
She said MPATT in their proposals to the CPO recommended that clinical audits be conducted.