BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 17, 2015–In July, in their efforts to pressure Government to grant them a salary increase, the staff of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) initiated a go-slow which led to the cancellation of elective surgeries and specialty services. KHMH authorities quickly took action by calling a meeting with all parties involved. As a result, the staff, with the assurance that the salary issue would be resolved within a few months, lifted their protest, and elective surgeries and specialty surgeries were resumed.
It has now been announced, that, following a series of meetings between the Government of Belize, the KHMH board of governors, and staff representatives, an agreement was reached that the staff of the KHMH staff will be getting a salary increase of 14%.
The negotiating team which represented the Government of Belize reportedly included Ministers John Saldivar, Patrick Faber, Pablo Marin and Godwin Hulse, and over the course of the negotiations, which lasted for a few weeks, the employees set up committees that were tasked with finding cost-saving measures for the hospital.
Chandra Cansino, Chairperson of the KHMH Board of Governors, in outlining the terms of the salary increase, has stated, “Approximately 400 staff will be receiving the increase and in return for the increase, the staff will have to commit to improving its efficiency within the hospital, make proper use of the health information system (to make the operations run smoother), and implement cost-saving and revenue-collection measures.” A press release from the KHMH also acknowledged a commitment from government to recognize and compensate KHMHA for fees owed by indigents, which reportedly contributed to their decision to approve the salary increase.
A joint press release of Wednesday, September 16, from KHMH management and staff further explained, “To complete this process there will be the signing of a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding, charting the way forward for improved health care delivery, improved benefits to staff and a path to sustainability.”
According to Cansino, the increase is costing the hospital $1.6 million in recurrent expenses; and although it has not yet been determined whether the increase will be passed on to patients, fee schedules are being reviewed. She stressed that the staff will need to be more efficient in the way they provide services at the KHMH.
Tylon Tillett, acting public relations manager of the hospital, said that a date when the paychecks received by KHMH staff will reflect the salary increase (which is reportedly retroactive to April) has not yet been set, as negotiations are still ongoing.