It has come to the attention of Our Today that starting today (May 1), dental surgeons within the public sector have called in sick in light of what they deem to be unsatisfactory compensation restructuring packages.
A trusted source from the group of dental surgeons told Our Today that “the compensation restructuring is being done using a flawed system with issues that have remained unresolved for over 30 years”.
The dental surgeons maintain the package absorbs allowances into their base salary while some allowances are discontinued all together.
Here’s the Dental Act:
“This not only makes our allowances taxable, but the salary being offered is equal to other public sector professions that do not require travel as part of the job (in the way that we do in transporting specialised equipment). Additionally, some levels of dentist salaries will be the same or less than some categories of dental auxillaries,” the source says, pointing out that public sector dental surgeons supervise dental auxillaries. For dental auxilliaries to work independently of public sector dentists runs contrary to the Dental Act.
“We’re not being treated equitably with this compensation restructuring, especially with regards to traveling. We are tasked to provide services to the indigent and most vulnerable which requires traversing rural areas and transporting specialised equipment. We’re being presented with a compensation package that is not transparent and is unfair.. As such, It is unconscionable to move forward with any compensation restructuring which is clearly biased against dental surgeons.”
Oral Health Disease
Oral health disease poses problems particularly to the more vulnerable. It affects 3.5 billion people worldwide.
Here are some local statistics on oral health disease:
- In 2019, 45 per cent of children aged one to nine had untreated cavities. In children aged five and older, 30 per cent of their teeth expected to survive into adulthood had cavities.
- The total productivity losses due to oral disease in Jamaica in 2019 amounted to US$60 million.
Additionally, oral disease in pregnancy is a direct contributor to premature birth and low birth weight of newborns. Oral cancers are one of the most common, debilitating and often fatal cancers worldwide. Oral disease is also known as a trigger for rheumatoid arthritis, it is associated with cognitive decline (dementia) and negatively affects glycemic control, and cardiovascular disease.
A study done by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in 2009 stated that oral health services is one of the most severely understaffed in Jamaica to the point where it undermines oral health programmes. Currently, the country has 83 public dental surgeons across the island and they are expected to serve a population of 2.8 million people. At least 1000 dentists are needed to service Jamaica’s population.
The Our Today source said, “Despite this lack of staffing, the government still has blatantly disregarded dental surgeons who are in public sector and has ascribed a low priority to oral health services in public health. Dental surgeons in public sector are required to provide optimal services with dilapidated, outdated, and unsuitable equipment and facilities”.
It was made clear that oral health in Jamaica is underserved.
“Though the compensation restructuring is at the centre of our dispute, we also protest on behalf of our patients and hope that our actions will bring awareness to the inaccessibility of oral health services in Jamaica. We want our actions to inspire meaningful change,” continued the source.
Dental surgeons say they met with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service (MOFPS) on April 5. However, since then they “have not been able to secure any follow up meeting despite repeated attempts to get in contact with MOFPS and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.”
Public Sector Compensation Review
The public-sector compensation review which commenced on April 1, 2022, is intended to overhaul the structure of salaries and other emoluments in the public service to make it more equitable.
The exercise, being undertaken over three fiscal years, is expected to conclude in 2024/25 and is expected to provide public-sector workers with a 20 per cent salary increase over the period.
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