Friday, August 14, 2015

Ghana Medical Doctors Embark on Strike Action



INTRODUCTION:
Doctors of the Ghana Medical Association working in public hospitals across the country are striking over what they call “poor working conditions”.

Sick people and their relatives who turned up at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital after 7 days of the strike have different stories to share.

In a letter signed by Dr Kwabena Adusei Opoku, President of the Ghana Medical Association, to the Minister of Health, the striking doctors are demanding members of the Ghana Medical Association working for the Ministry of Health of Ghana must be entitled to 40% of their basic salaries as accommodation allowance per month.

For what another doctor who has refused to join the strike is calling “an outrageous demand” the striking doctors say they must be entitled to 80, 90 and 100 gallons of petrol per month respectively based on the rank of the doctor. The doctors will not return to work unless they are given free post-graduate medical education, better retirement packages, increases in clothing, fuel, maintenance and “height” allowances and there is also a request for free overseas healthcare services not available in Ghana. The doctors are also asking for the right to import vehicles into the country free of duty. The list goes on and on. But by the time I published this post, more than 200 of a total of 400 doctors of the Ghana Medical Association had voted in an emergency meeting at its General Assembly to extend the strike action by another two weeks!
What does the people say?

Polina Asare
Polina Asare
“The strike action by the medical doctors can easily be felt at the Out Patient Department (OPD) of the children’s hospital here at Korle-Bu.
My son was operated on a few weeks ago and we were due for review today but as we approached the OPD we found that the place was so dry. After sitting down for a while a nurse came and took the records of my son and asked that we go and come back on the 22nd of September for the review.
There was not much explanation why we couldn’t meet the doctor today. I panicked and got disturbed because I need to know how my son is recovering after the operation and it is only the doctor who can help me. We ask the government to give the doctors all that they want so that the doctors can come back and take care of very sick people.”

Evans Arthur
Evans Arthur
“My mother has not been feeling well for sometime but because of the strike action we called her doctor on phone to find out if he was at work.
By phone, we booked an appointment and she has been treated since we came here yesterday. My general view about the strike action is that we need to recognize that doctors are very important professionals who spend so much money and many years of their lives to study medicine so we must treat them well when they start working for us. We must give them what they want to remain comfortable because of the delicate nature of the work they do. They are life savers.”

Anonymous: A doctor
Anonymous: A Doctor
“What did John Mahama really mean when he said he will live within the budget and that he will not meet our noble demands? Was the budget made for the workers or the workers were made for the budget? The President and everybody in his government pretend there is no money but just under our noses, they squander money like they pluck them on trees.
We were in this country when more than four million dollars was flown out of this country by chartered flight and sent to about 30 footballers in Brazil. When the Minister was called to account for how the money was spent, he started wailing like a three year old boy who went with his mother to the market and got lost. That was all. No one has been prosecuted for this robbery. In fact in order to avoid the anger of the public, President Mahama hid the Minister under his table at the Flagstaff House so why must we accept it when he comes and tell me there is no money?
Spend some time and take a close look at the report of the Judgment Debt Commissioner and find out how politicians have squandered our money over the past twenty years. They never have the workers of this country in their minds when they waste our monies on ostentatious lifestyles but expect us to work and keep working so they can live comfortably. Doctors are not murderers, we are life savers and we love our work but nobody can take us for granted.”

Felicia Edepo
Felicia Edepo
“About a week ago, I came to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to deliver and everything went very well by the power of God.
I had heard of the impending strike by the doctors but I was received very well when I got here and the nurses were very professional in their work. I was discharged after delivery. As I speak my baby is doing very well. I do not know of the situation at the other departments but I do not think it is all doctors who have gone on strike, some are working normally.
I have met a few women who have told me there are no nurses and doctors at the OPD this morning so I am going to find out for myself”

Mavis Enam
 Mavis Senam
“My grandmother was brought here yesterday because of a complication with the eye. We have been here on previous occasions but yesterday she had to be admitted and the doctors took complete charge of her and began treatment immediately.
She has been sent to the theater and we have been given assurances from all the doctors that she will be fine.
Every doctor here at the eye clinic is doing their work very well. I have not found the impact of the doctor’s strike here so maybe you need to check at the other departments. I wish to send a word through this medium to all Ghanaians that some of the doctors here at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital are working and that they should not hesitate to come here when they fall sick”

Anonymous: A doctor
Anonymous: A Doctor
I have worked here at Korle Bu for a while and I have also followed the negotiations of the Ghana Medical Association with keen interest since November 2014. I do not expect to be consulted on everything decision taken by the national executives but I sincerely think that these recent demands being made of the government are absolutely outrageous.
Doctors are facing problems not only in Accra but in every part of the country and that is why the State must fix a package that will reward our hard work and sacrifices of the members of the GMA but what could have possibly pushed the executives to demand that I be given a 100 gallons of petrol a month when I live at the quarters not so far from the hospital? Am I expected to share that with my wife? If that is so, my wife is also a doctor and she is also expected to receive a 100 gallons so altogether we will bring home 200 gallons of petrol per month. Are these really what doctors’ want?
Some of us will be compelled to speak out very soon because we cannot tolerate these unnecessary tussle for long. I am equally uncomfortable with some of the rumours being peddled about and I hope they are false. It is my expectation that Serebour, the chairman and the other executives do not have any partisan political underpinnings to the demands that are being made on our behalf. If that is not the case, then some of us will put on our party paraphernalia and kick against this strike action very soon.”
  

Mary Zize
Mary Zize
“My daughter has been on admission here at Korle Bu for some time. She has a problem of the chest. The doctors here are treating her with love and compassion and we are hopeful that she will recover very soon. We appeal to the other doctors at the other departments not to use human life as a bargaining chip in their confrontation with the government. We also ask the politicians to give the doctors their fair wages for the hard work they do here at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.”


Anonymous: A nurse
Anonymous: A Nurse
“We have finally decided to close down the Out Patient Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital because the doctors are just not available to treat the patients when they arrive. We are facing very challenging circumstances here at the moment and we wished that the situation had not deteroriated this much. We have got here because the politicians have not treated the medical doctors in truth and honesty. We appeal to the government not to go back on the promises they have made to the Ghana Medical Association because every single minute that passes by without the return of the doctors to the consulting rooms is a moment of pain and agony for a sick person out there.”

Sekina Ayamba
Sekina Ayamba
“Today happens to be my very first time of visiting the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and we came here with my younger niece who is not feeling well and her condition is deteriorating.
We got here at 7:30am but there was no doctor on duty. We sat and waited until about 11:00am before the doctors started meeting the patients. We came here because we knew that if all hope was lost, Korle Bu will rescue my niece and that was why I got worried when we got here and there was no doctor on duty as of 7am in the morning”

Anonymous: A doctor
Anonymous: A Doctor
“I am not supposed to talk to any media but I will do so with you because of the respect I have for the Managing Editor of your newspaper. He speaks a lot of sense and that is why I have so much respect for him.
My very first headache over the state of health care delivery in Ghana is about the doctor to patient ratio. It is just too wide. That is already a disaster and nothing has been done to close the gap but how can we close the gap when you have to spend a fortune in this country just to train to become a medical doctor.
At the back of these strikes some of us have taken the risk to attend to new cases that are brought to this facility dependent on how serious they are. We cannot assume full duties because we have to show solidarity with our other colleagues who are at the negotiating table with the Minister. Sometimes I regret being a medical doctor because many of my folks have chosen this profession for the reward and the prestige associated with being a doctor. Something is not right and I am very worried.”

William Amoako
William Amoako
“My wife is receiving treatment at the National Centre for Radiotherapy here at Korle Bu and doctors over here work from morning to evening and they are also receiving new cases. We only come for review and every time when we get here the doctors are available to treat my wife.
However, I have noticed something very strange. As you can see, the Emergency Unit is very close to the Radiotherapy centre and on a day like this you will normally find so many people seated at the entrance of the unit.
Many of them would come either to visit accident victims or they might have brought new cases to the unit. You don’t find them anymore. It is only a few people you find over there. I do not fully understand what is happening but I am sure that the doctors at the Emergency Unit have withdrawn their services to the hospital. For many people, and very naturally, they rush to Korle Bu in times of distress and that is why I find this scenario very frightening as you can easily predict that many lives would have been lost by the time the doctors strike is over.”

Bintu Ali
Bintu Ali
“My husband was brought here and admitted before the doctor’s strike started. He continues to receive medical attention from the doctors at the male ward. This morning I have been given a paper to go and do a scan of my husband. The NHIS card is sometimes helpful but it does not pay for everything. I am waiting for my son and once he arrives we will find out what to do. The doctors need the scan results very urgently.”



Anonymous: A doctor
Anonymous: A Doctor
“Look here, I am only here to attend to the people on admission before the strike started and I will not see new cases. Why do you think doctors have no right to live decent lives like the politicians? If medicine is so lucrative why a specialist like Omane Boamah would not work in the hospital but has chosen to become a politician and he is chopping. Omane Boamah is a specialist’s specialist. We know him well. He is one of the few doctors we have in this country who can prescribe medication without rigorous laboratory tests. But why did he rush into politics at his young age. What will happen if we all decided to run for Members of Parliament or just veered into politics? We are demanding that our conditions of service are improved and the state must meet those demands. Unlike some of those politicians we work very hard to save lives and we will continue to do so but we must also receive our pound of flesh for a fair days work. We are here at post and if severe conditions come we will help because we value human life. We have suffered enough and this time round we no go sit down”