BVI News

Medics illegally forced to sign contracts?

 Paula Chester-Cumberbatch. Photo Credit: Newsday newspaper in Trinidad

Recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of the BVIHSA, Paula Chester-Cumberbatch. Photo Credit: Newsday newspaper in Trinidad

The state-owned BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA), which manages all public health facilities in the British Virgin Islands, is being accused of breaking the law by allegedly forcing medical practitioners to sign contracts under ‘duress’.

The claim is being made by the BVI Medical Doctors Association headed by Dr Harlan Vanterpool, who also called for an end to the negotiation of individual contracts with workers. According to him, such negotiation has created division between expat and local medical practitioners in the work environment.

BVI News Online has received the copy of a letter dated December 5, 2016 in which the lobby group also claimed that a number of expat workers have been made to work without contracts, and to also have to suffer indignation at ports of entry.

“Once a decision is made to renew a contract, it should be renewed expeditiously. If physicians are working without a contract, it automatically means that they are working on a month-to-month basis. Such a contract can be terminated at any time, and does not give the professional any sense of security – nor does it give them an opportunity to communicate their needs.”

“It also doesn’t allow him/her to traverse the borders of the country without facing the indignity of unnecessary questions and repercussions at ports of entry. Some physicians have also been forced to sign contracts under duress, and this is an unacceptable and illegal practice,” added the Medical Doctors Association in its letter addressed to the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of the BVIHSA Paula Chester-Cumberbatch. That letter is just reaching BVI News Online’s attention.

The lobby group also lamented: “Too many of our physicians are working for prolonged periods of time without contracts. Their jobs do not appear secure and this creates a great amount of anxiety and affects their motivation and self-esteem. Such inefficiencies do not place the authority in a favourable light and this, we feel, should be corrected.”

Stop individual negotiation

Furthermore, the Medical Doctors Association has called for an end to the BVIHSA’s practice of negotiating contracts with individual medical practicioners.

It stated that such negotiations should involve a body such as itself.

“The negotiation process between physicians and the Authority thus far has only occurred on an individual basis. This method, unfortunately, appears to be divisive in nature and has created an unnatural divide between local and contracted physicians that has only augmented tensions in the work environment.”

“Physicians should be able to enter contract negotiations without a sense of distrust, and with a confidence that they will not feel cheated at the end of the day. We would encourage that the negotiations be done with a body such as ours that is legally registered in the BVI, and that would be willing to look out for everyone’s interests,” the Medical Doctors Association further said.

Dr Harlan Vanterpool

Dr Harlan Vanterpool

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