IDEC Ghana is a human rights, empowerment and development organization with the overall goal of protecting and promoting the rights and the total wellbeing of all; giving much focus on the fight against social injustice, ensuring the respect for human rights – liberty, dignity and better living conditions for women, children and youth, physically challenged and disadvantaged minority groups.
We have a range of clients that we serve including children (in and out of school), pregnant and nursing mothers, patients, students (first, second and third), physically challenged etc.
With the above clients to serve and the goal to achieve we think that we have an interest and an opinion to share in the ongoing strikes because we believe these strikes are likely to affect our service beneficiaries directly or indirectly.
We want to introduce different dimensions to the debate on the STRIKES by asking the following questions.
1) Whose Right is paramount here? Is it the patient who has a contract with the health institution by enrolling on the NIHS on condition that the institution will make Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists etc available when the patient present himself at the health institution? Or the Rights of the employees (ie Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists etc) of the institution to a further and better conditions of service to the detriment of lives of the patient?
2) Whose Right is paramount here? Is it the student (could be parent, guardian etc) who has a contract with the institution by paying fees on condition that the institution will provide or make teachers available to teach? Or the Rights of the employees (ie Teachers – GNAT, NAGRAT, UTAG etc) of the institution to a further and better conditions of service to the detriment of the academic development of students?
With our small knowledge on Basic Human Rights, we have classified Human Rights into four (4) pillars.
1) Life or Survival, ie the right to life and all other ingredients – food, health etc that ensures survival.
2) Development. Here we are looking at the right to self-development including education, training, access to information etc.
3) Participation. Here we are looking at the right to participation including the right to vote, etc.
4)Protection. Here we look at the right to security, safe environment, free movement etc.
We acknowledged that Doctors, Teachers, Nurses, Pharmacists and all other workers have the right to declare strike and participate in strike action. But the bases of the strike and its effects on the rights of other people cannot be overlooked.
We are of the view that an issue of Human Rights arise when the actions and inactions of another person or group of persons infringed on or about to infringe on the basic rights of a person or group of persons.
In this instance, we ask, what are the Doctors, Pharmacists and the Teachers asking for of which they are on strike? Is it their basic salary without which they cannot survive? Or are they asking for further and better condition of service which will not affect their survival but better their lives?
Let us look at what students and patient will be looking for:
Students need basic knowledge, skills, information, psychological support etc from teachers to survive and build their fundamentals of the lives while patient at the hospitals needs basic medical care to survive.
So we ask, will the demand of the Doctors, Pharmacists and the Teachers be met by the government? If yes, let us compare the effects of any delay in meeting these demands on the lives of the Doctors, Pharmacists and the Teachers with the effects of the strike on patients at the hospital or patients turned away from the hospitals and students preparing for an examination.
Assuming a patient dies out of these strikes by Doctors and Pharmacists, do we go to the cemetery or to the family and tell them, now our areas or grievances have been addressed so the dead can now come for treatment? What are the effects of these deaths on the attainment of MDGs – 4 and 5 that some of us are working hard to achieve by the able support from local and international donors? What happened to the right to life of these patients?
For us at IDEC Ghana, we think that it is about time the Human Rights Court of the land looked into the issue of Rights: at what point do we say a particular right(s) of a person or persons is/are more important or urgent to another right(s) of person or persons seeking further and better enhancement of rights?
We are considering contesting this in court and we call on;
1) any student, parent or guardian who thinks that the actions of the teachers, UTAG etc have affected them in one way or the other to sue the teachers or the school authorities for not keeping to their side of the contract and
2) anyone- relations, friends, parents, caregivers etc who believe or have the proof to the fact that the strike action of the Doctors and Pharmacists has resulted in the death, worsening condition etc of a patient at the hospital or turned away to sue the doctors or the hospital authorities for not keeping to their side of the contract.
This is important at this time when we pride ourselves as a country with the rule of law, a beacon of democracy and respecter of Human Rights in Africa.
Samuel K. Agbostey