By JAMES APA GUMUNO
DOCTORS engaged by the LNG project are paid three times more than their counterparts engaged in the public sector, The National reports.
A surgeon at the Mt Hagen General Hospital said yesterday a doctor engaged in the LNG project earned between K7,000 and K11,200 a fortnight while the Health Department was paying its doctors between K1,500 and K3,000.
This discrepancy is known by working doctors, who are currently agitating for increased perks and privileges with their employer, the state, and unless remedied, is likely to see an exodus of doctors from the public sector.
Although the claim could not be substantiated by the LNG project developers, the surgeon, who wished to remain anonymous, said many of his colleagues had been and “are being lured” by the LNG project and other resource companies.
Dr Thomas Vinit, the chairman of the review committee, confirmed last night that there was a grave danger of too many specialist doctors leaving the public sector unless the state could break away from the single line salary structure to compensate specialists properly in order to retain them.
“We actually did a job value study and established that there is too much discrepancy between what is on offer from private sector and what the go¬vernment is paying doctors.
“The government spends so much money on training doctors for up to 14 years.
“ If these doctors were suddenly to leave, it would leave a big vacuum in the public health sector.
“What we did (going on strike) was to prevent people from moving out. The government has got to see that.”
Vinit said if the national doctors were to be involved in a mass resignation and then return on individual contracts with the government, it would cost the go¬vernment a lot more because each specialist would be demanding the market rate.
“It takes the government up to K200,000 to train one doctor. To have that doctor leave with all the skills is a big loss,” he said.
The Mt Hagen surgeon said it was common knowledge that ExxonMobil and its sub-contractors were attracting specialist doctors.
The surgeon was considering his options too, he told The National.
He said: “Why should I keep on suffering on substandard pay when there are opportunities out there which I can explore and earn a decent living for me and my fa¬mily?”
He said the week-long NDA strike last week should send a clear message to the government that they must improve the pay and working conditions of national doctors – pay and conditions which he claimed had changed very little in the past 20 years.