First Published: 26 November 2005
Marcher’s yesterday morning asked Cabinet to appoint an independent mediator to settle the on-going dispute between Government and its former doctors.
It was one of a three-point submission delivered verbally to Cabinet, by march organiser Maiava Visekota Peteru, in front of Government building.
Maiava said the statement that “the service at the hospital now is satisfactory” is false. “How can it be ‘satisfactory’ when 23 of our doctors have resigned and less than that number are working overtime right now to cope with the demands of our sick and needy?” she asked.
The submission delivered asked Cabinet:
• To accept the entry point of doctors salaries as requested by the Samoa Medical Association for medical graduates
• To re-employ all doctors without their having to re-apply and further that their conditions of employment be negotiated as mutually agreed upon between the Government and the Samoa Medical Association or
• To appoint an independent person or persons to advice and act as Mediator between the Government and the doctors, to seriously consider both parties views of the matter and establish a solution acceptable to both parties.
Ulu Vaomalo Ulu Kini responded that cabinet would consider the submission. There will be “another meeting and a rethink,” said Ulu. The marchers, around 600, gathered in front of Government building.
After the formalities, Maiava told reporters that many more were supporting the march from their homes. “We accept the Government’s reply,” she said.
The country awaits Government’s final decision prayerfully, Maiava said. “I don’t know of any other country where a mass resignation of doctors twenty three and eighteen have left in two years and still we haven’t given it heavy thought,” she said.
“It’s true it’s only twenty three doctors but measure it against the 170,000 people of Samoa and this number of doctors have left, to me it’s something we should be worried about. How can our hospital be run?
“Its true doctors can be brought over from overseas but I believe Samoan people will not get the completeness (service) that should be there.”
She said that the reason for the public support of the doctors were:
• The problem of the shortage of doctors has been years in the making and has been debated on several occasions in numerous Parliamentary sessions.
• The reason for this problem is the low salary early point and the fundamentally inadequate working conditions that continue to prevent doctors from being able to adequately serve the public.
• This has resulted in many doctors resigning to work overseas while others leave to establish their own clinics.
• This contributes also to many sons and daughters of Samoa, who are training overseas as doctors, not returning to Samoa after their education.
• Further proof of this continuing problem is the fact that 18 doctors resigned over the past two years during 2003 and 2004.
• In other words, doctors are forced to continually work unreasonable hours despite the stressful demands on their physical and mental capability to care for patients safely.
• Who is affected? The answer- The general public who are admitted to hospital at any time, not to mention the families of each doctor who don’t spend enough time with them.
• However if the recommended number of 80 doctors by the Commission of Inquiry was attained then this would not happen and the overtime hours would not happen and the overtime hours would not be so high.
• That is the reason why the doctor’s earnings quoted by the PM on TV and Radio appear so high. But in reality, if the overtime portion of their salary was deducted, the doctor’s salaries for a 40 hour week would be minimal.
• We absolutely reject the statement by Government that the amount of money spent on doctor’s salaries is up to a million per annum – because most of that amount is overtime payments –this is misleading”
Maiava said that the second lot of reasons why they support doctors are:
• In 1992 a Human Resource Planning Report was submitted to Government by the Public Service Commission that suggested a separate salary scale for doctors in recognition of their special skills. The Government did not act on this recommendation.
• In 2001 the Samoa Medical Association made a further request for the Government’s consideration of their salaries and working conditions.
• The same request was made in 2004, both were rejected by Cabinet.
Maiava said Government’s compromise of doctor’s salaries with that of other professions was misleading and inappropriate.