Red Tape Ties Down Pay of Surgery Residents
Health Department Failed to Request Hacienda Stipend for Puerto Rico Doctors in Residency; was Ten Weeks Late in Filing Request
The saga of physicians in residency at several hospitals, who went without pay owed by the government as part of residency scholarships for two and a half months, has more chapters than a Victor Hugo novel.
As previously reported by caribbeanbusiness.com, 19 medical graduates were forced to personally show up last Thursday at Puerto Rico Health Department offices in the Río Piedras Medical Center to demand payment of all back wages.
The doctors signed a contract with the department in May that was scheduled to start in July, with fiscal year 2021-2022, but since July, the medical graduates were not paid as stipulated under the agreement between the physicians and the agency despite putting their life-saving knowledge to work for patients.
“The Health Department is not complying with our contract,” said Sheila Pérez, a fourth-year surgery resident who served as spokesperson for the group of physicians during their visit to the government offices Thursday. “All the medical residents in Puerto Rico are employees of the Health Department, and since we started the contract that we signed in May, they have not paid the majority of us, and only paid some partially.”
In coverage at Health headquarters, Caribbean Business tried unsuccessfully to obtain a reaction to the matter from the agency’s press office; however, the same afternoon the story was made public, Health Secretary Carlos Mellado issued a statement regarding the situation.
“I have given instructions to expedite the payment process with the urgency it deserves,” the official’s statement read. “The students will soon see their stipends reflected. Our commitment is to protect the island’s medical class and continue avoiding the incessant exodus of our health professionals. Also among my priorities directing the Department is to take it to a digitization process where most services can be carried out through the technological tools that we have.”
Pérez explained that the information given to the residents was that the salary of each comes from two different sources: A scholarship awarded by the Health Department and a stipend from the Puerto Rico Treasury Department. The agency head said that department officials had told the residents that a payment deposited last Friday corresponds to the Health Department scholarship and that it could take some time to release Treasury’s portion of the pay, given that the Health department must procure the stipend.
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