A top surgeon at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) has tendered his resignation amidst calls by the Leadership Code Commission for doctors to cease their private practices.
Dr Dudley Baerodo, the country’s only urology specialist, confirmed to Solomon Today Post he had submitted his resignation letter to the Public Service Commission (PSC) last week.
“Yes, I’ve tendered my resignation letter and now awaiting the public service commission to get back to me,” Dr Baerodo said.
He declined to divulge the reason for his resignation.
But the Solomon Today Post understands it’s to do with the demand from the Leadership Code Commission for government-employed doctors to stop venturing into private practice.
Dr Baerodo, like many of his senior colleagues at the NRH, owned a private clinic in Honiara, which he attends to during his private hours.
His decision has sent shock waves through the NRH, with fears that his departure will leave hundreds of patients suffering from urinary problems with no doctor to attend to them.
Hospital sources have also told the Solomon Today Post a senior physician, Dr Jones Ghabu, has also tendered his resignation.
Attempts to get comments from Dr Ghabu proved futile.
The LCC last week warned doctors and dentists to cease their private practice, and advised them to declare their financial interests and reminded them to consult the LCC or the Attorney General when reviewing their scheme of service.
This was after an LCC meeting on 27 October 2016, finding the practice of national doctors and dentists (‘the leaders) engaging in private practice pursuant to their scheme of service, as breaching the Leadership Code.
“In 2004 a revised Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed forming the basis of the leaders’ scheme of service.
“The MOA gives the leaders, amongst other things, two incentives: The right for the leaders to engage in private practice whilst in the service of government and their entitlement to receive Special Duty Allowance (SDA).
“The purpose of the SDA is to cover overtime work.
“The MOA was signed by the then Permanent Secretary for Department of Public Service (PS/DPS), Permanent Secretary of Health and Representatives of the Solomon Islands Medical Association.
“The Commission found that although the PS/DPS had consented to the leaders engaging in other employment by virtue of him signing the MOA, the leaders still have to get the approval of the Commission as required by Section 15 of the LCC Act,” the statement said.
According to the LCC statement, none of the leaders have done so.
“The Commission also found that the incentives of private practice and the payment of SDA place the leaders in a conflict of interest situation.
“Leaders who work in private practice do so during their off-duty hours.”
However, the Commission found the professionals do not have any claim for off-duty hours.
This is because their off-duty hours have already been paid for by a flat rate of SDA.
To avoid the conflict, the Commission is of the view that the leaders must have only one of these incentives; but they must not have both.
According to the statement from the LCC, the Commission is well aware that not all leaders engage in private practice during their off duty hours.
“However all of them received the SDA.
“On this basis the Commission decided that the leaders engaging in private practice must stop forthwith.
“Any deviance of this directive will be regarded as a serious misconduct in office,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, commenting on FSII facebook page, Dr Ghabu said:
“I acknowledge LCC’s stand in what they believe in.
“True, there were doctors doing private practice during times they believe to be their private hours or off hours. And that is where the issue arise.
“From my understanding, LCC will only investigate when someone complained about doctors practice. I wonder what is the motive behind the complaint about private practice?
“I believe it’s about the money. What if we look at the service part of that practice. For those that have money and willing to pay for fast service may not care about the cost if it has quality.”
He said the truth about service at NRH is that all the doctors experienced burnout and fatigue.
“While you public enjoyed your times with your spouses, children and family, they are busy around the clock to make sure lives are saved.
“Every day is the same. Week days, weekends, public holidays are same all working days. That is the reality of a doctor’s job in Solomon Islands.
“Now its dengue outbreak and doctors and nurses are pushed to the limit to provide care to save lives in a limited human resources country like Solomon.
“And when doctors engaged in private practice to find ways to attract them or make them busy and continue stay in Solomon Islands, they were condemned.”
He added that in case the people of Solomon Islands are still blind to this fact, the truth is countries abroad see the value of Solomon Islands doctors.
“That is the very reason why we are losing doctors every year. That is why PNG graduate doctors never return home.
“No country would want to employ poor performing doctors. How many of our doctors have we read sent back home from other countries for poor performance at work place? It’s unheard of.
“The reality is our doctors are marketable for their experiences, skills and knowledge.
“Those that serve Solomon Islands do so for the people of this country,” Dr Ghabu said.
“What if among all these issues doctors decide to all resign and do private practise? What will the health system of Solomon Islands become of? NRH will collapse. People will be dying unless can afford private clinic fees.
“Who should we blame? Doctors or government and will we recruit from outside like PNG and Philippines?”
By STEPHEN DIISANGO