Hundreds of casual workers in public hospitals and health centres across the country are to be laid off, following a directive from the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Even though the total number of workers to be affected is not readily known, it can be confirmed that at least 300 of them work in the nine health facilities in the Accra metropolis.
The directive was issued as a result of moves by some of the casual workers, who have been engaged for between four and 12 years, to get their employment status regularised.
A letter dated April 14, 2014 and signed by the Minister of Health, Ms Sherry Ayittey, directed the management of public hospitals and health centres throughout the country to outsource some services and terminate the engagement of others.
The letter, which is available to the Daily Graphic, was copied to the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Services (GHS), the Director of Human Resource of the Health Directorate of the ministry and the Director of Human Resource of the GHS.
It has also been distributed to all regional directors of health services, all chief executive officers of the teaching hospitals and the medical directors of the psychiatric hospitals.
Titled: ‘Re: Mechanisation of Temporary Staff’, the letter opens with the statement, ‘We refer to the list of temporary workers submitted for regularisation for permanent appointment in the respective agencies and appreciate all the efforts being made to provide quality services for Ghanaians.’
To ensure continuity of quality care provision, it said, two major decisions had been taken to ensure the continuity of quality care provision and ‘all agency heads are to ensure that facilities comply with these decisions’.
It said the services to be outsourced should include those of utility workers, comprising labourers, security men, watchmen and cleaners whose services were mostly required at the main operational levels of health centres and hospitals.
‘At the hospital level, however, such services should be outsourced in line with the laid down procurement procedure,’ the letter said, adding that the hospitals must seek approval from the minister before the engagement of the respective companies.
For health aids or assistants, it asked the managers of health facilities to terminate their engagement after paying them their three-month salaries.
That, according to the directive, was because the GHS was to engage more of the enrolled nurses trained in public health training institutions who were already on the payroll to fill existing staffing gaps.
When the Daily Graphic contacted the Ministry of Health, the Public Relations Officer, Mr Anthony Goodman, confirmed that the minister had issued the directive.
He, however, denied that the casual workers would be laid off, explaining that per the outsourcing of the services, the various facilities would have their internal arrangements to take care of the workers.
When asked when the directive would take effect, as there was no timeline, he indicated that the health facilities were expected to comply with the ministry’s decision ‘as and when they have the resources’.
Some officials at the GHS were tight-lipped on the directive.
However, checks at some facilities in Accra showed that some of the casual workers had received notices that they were to be laid off.
Casual workers in hospitals in the Accra metropolis have, since October 2013, been complaining about the delay in regularising their employment status.
Following the publication of the story on the grumblings of the workers in the October 25, 2013 edition of the Daily Graphic, Ms Ayittey wrote to the GHS to compile a list of all casual workers as part of efforts at addressing their concerns.
The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, was ordered to furnish the ministry with the names of the affected workers by November 15, 2013, but as of March 2014, the ministry had not received the list.
The casual workers, popularly referred to as ‘unconfirmed staff’, claimed that they had worked far beyond the stipulated six months under Ghana’s labour laws. They work in departments such as laboratory, ward, pharmacy, records and transport, among others.
For casual workers without a first degree, the hospitals pay them monthly salaries ranging between GH¢100 and GH¢180, while first degree holders earn GH¢200.
One of the 53 casual workers at the Achimota Hospital in Accra told the Daily Graphic that ‘because we started fighting for our rights, the ministry wants to terminate our employment. For years we have been waiting for the ministry to confirm us as permanent staff’.
A worker at the Kaneshie Polyclinic said, ‘What the Ministry is doing is not fair; we have been told we will be sent home soon. Are we not human beings? When we are laid off, will we not be replaced?
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