Tonga Health denies claims doctors go on strike; Treasury addresses overtime pay concerns

The Ministry of Health has denied rumours circulated on social media that doctors in Tonga went on strike over their delayed overtime payments.

The Minister of Health and the Health Chief Executive have dismissed any walk out to Kaniva News saying the doctors had been disappointed after they did not receive their overtime payments as expected.

Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola

They said the delays had been due to the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Treasury wanting to address an issue regarding the Ministry’s overtime pay policy.

They said the PSC and Treasury had resolved the issue and the doctors are expected to receive their overtime payments for August and September this week.

The chief executive Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola has described the issue as a misunderstanding arising during interpretations of two clauses of the policy.

The policy was created in response to requirements by Development Partners who are providing the budget support to supplement the Ministry’s salaries.

Dr ‘Akau’ola said a clause in the policy states that doctors only have a limited overtime working hours of four a day.

“It was designed to make sure the budget is being spent wisely”, Dr ‘Akau’ola said in Tongan.

However, another clause of the policy says an exception was made in times of emergency. This meant, doctors could still be paid an overtime payment rate if they worked more than four hours.

Dr ‘Akau’ola said the interpretation of the two clauses by the authorities involved had delayed paying out of the doctors’ payments.

He said the issue had been resolved and the policy was upgraded so that this it could not affect the doctors in the future.

He said the doctors had been working long hours during the Covid 19 pandemic to meet the demand for medical helps.

Dr ‘Akau’ola said his doctors did not go on strike and the situation had been due largely to the consequences of the coronavirus cases.

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