The nationwide strike action embarked by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and the Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOPSA) has taken a devastating toll on government health facilities.
Both health service providers have are attending only in patients and would withdraw services entirely by April 15 if their grievances are not fully met.
A visit by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) to Ridge and Korle Bu Teaching hospitals saw the Out Patients Departments (OPD) filled to its capacity with patients who have come to seek medical attention.
Nurses were seen taking the weight and temperatures of patients in anticipation of them meeting a doctor who did not show up and thus the patients left for their various homes.
Speaking to the GNA, Ms Alice Opoku, a principal Nursing Officer, said all they could do was to prepare the patients who have come to see the doctor and could not do anything beyond that.
“We wouldn’t want to take the risk of doing the work of a doctor. It will be better if the doctors themselves come round to tell the patients that they will only attend to patients already on admission”
At the Korle Bu OPD, a nurse who pleaded anonymity, said both the doctors and the nurses worked together and if the doctors have embarked on strike action, “then we will also have to advise ourselves since our Single Spine issues have not been fully addressed by government”.
Patients the GNA spoke to in these two hospitals pleaded with government to reconsider the demands of the doctors so they can resume work with immediate effect.
“If government has been able to approve this huge sums of money for parliamentarians, government should be able to settle the allowances of these doctors. Our priorities must be set right as a nation if we want development”, Old man Neequaye told the GNA.
Pharmacist Stephen Corquaye, President of GHOPSA, told the GNA that no correspondence had taken place after the commencement of the strike action with either government or stakeholders.
He said they have been over stretched for the past 18 months and their strike action was an indefinite one.
He explained that though it was allowances that they were fighting for, it affected the entire remuneration of members adding it is these little drops of water that will fill the ocean”.
Dr Kwabena Opoku Edusei, President of the GMA, told the GNA that they have been taken for a ride for far too long and if nothing concrete was done within the week, the worse part would begin as from April 15, 2013.
The leadership of GMA last Saturday announced the withdrawal of service effective April 8, 2013 in demand of payments of allowances.
The GMA has accordingly informed all its members across the country to comply with the strike action. The declaration of the strike followed the insistence of the GMA not to abide by the ruling upheld by the National Labour Commission last Friday, regarding the payment schedule of the salary arrears of doctors.
The doctors had turned to the NLC for an overturn of an earlier payment schedule instituted by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC), which proposed a three-tranche payment arrangement of the 2012 arrears, owed them.
Payment for the first tranche was scheduled to be in May this year, with the final payment to be made in September 2013.
Angered by the NLC’s decision to uphold the FWSC, which was accused of succumbing to pressure from the government to ignore the concerns of the doctors, the Ghana Medical Association has declared that it would not attend to out-patient cases at government hospitals, effective today.
The doctors suspended their earlier action in February in the hope that the right thing would be done, but they said, up till now, the government had not taken any steps to address their concerns.
GHOPSA since March 22, this year, members of have embarked on a work-to-rule action and will not countenance any attempts from any quarter to undermine the collective and legitimate demands.
“We have noted with regret and disappointment that in spite of several meetings, assurances and engagements with all stakeholders, it appears nothing is going to be done about the baseless and unfair market premium that the FWSC has unilaterally and arbitrarily ‘imposed’ on pharmacists, since October 2011”, Mr Ernest Aboagye, Spokesperson for GHOPSA said.