WOULD hospital waiting lists be reduced if doctors started clocking in as the minister of health George Pamboridis has said? Probably, but it would require hospital doctors adopting a constructive approach and not working less productively in the mornings in order to boost overtime pay for afternoon work. Regardless of how doctors respond, clocking in is necessary as part of the rationalisation of the operation of state hospitals, if they are to become autonomous and thus pave the way for the introduction of the national health scheme.
All the political parties have become zealous supporters of the national health scheme during the parliamentary election campaign, criticising the government of prevaricating and not being fully committed to it. Yet none of the zealous politicians ever back the government when it tries to deal with the obstacles to the scheme that are placed primarily by hospital workers. They all supported the nurses union when it was on strike and none of them have dared take a stand against the doctors’ unreasonable resistance to clocking in.
This dispute has been going on for months. Pamboridis wants to introduce afternoon operations and this would involve doctors doing overtime. Understandably, the ministry would want to have records of the extra hours surgeons have put in, so as to calculate the costs of the exercise. The state doctors, disagree with this approach, demanding they were paid per case and not by extra hours worked.
The real problem is the union mentality of hospital doctors, whose primary concern is how to maximise their earnings rather than improve service to patients. Overtime pay, without clocking in (each doctor would fill in a form of extra hours they had done and submit it to accounts) had been abused by doctors as several cases investigated by the ministry showed. Extra payment per case would also be liable to abuse as doctors might decide not to offer patients the best possible care in order to get through as many cases as possible.
In short there is no alternative to the clocking in card, even if a former union leader claimed it would be “humiliating for doctors to stand in queue with other workers” to punch their card. Pamboridis seems determined not to back down. He has told doctors that if they refuse to clock in the health ministry would simply refer even more cases to the private sector in its drive to reduce waiting lists. This could be a more costly option, but government doctors must be made to understand that the administration of the hospitals is the responsibility of the health ministry and not their unions.