Anxious journalists who trooped to the precincts of an Accra High Court yesterday to observe proceedings of a suit brought against the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) by an Accra-base legal practitioner, Edward Tuinese Amuzu were disappointed.
This was after the judge presiding over the case, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, adjourned hearing to Wednesday, May 8, 2013.
Edward Amuzu is seeking a declaration from the court that the strike by doctors, most of who are members of Ghana Medical Association, was illegal.
A similar suit filed by the National Labour Commission (NLC) against the doctors is scheduled for hearing on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.
But when lawyer Amuzu’s case came up for hearing the GMA pleaded with the court to be given time to respond to claims by lawyer Amuzu since they received the writ only two days ago and therefore could not file an appropriate response.
The judge therefore thought it wise to grant their wish.
Most of the journalists who had their pens and scribbling pads ready to write could not return to their respected offices with no news.
Lawyer Amuzu is also seeking an order from the court directed at the GMA to call off its strike and a perpetual injunction to restrain doctors from ever embarking on a strike or a partial withdrawal of services.
In his statement of claim, the Accra-based legal practitioner stated that one of the philosophies of the GMA was that “health is a right and must be made accessible, equitable, affordable, appropriate and safe at all times to all the people in Ghana”.
“The plaintiff further contends that as essential service providers, members of the defendant association cannot lawfully withdraw any part of their services in total disregard of the labour laws of the land, and in particular Section 163 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651),” he noted.
This, he averred was because the GMA, together with all of its members working in the public sector, had a duty to obey the laws of Ghana, adding that the action of the association and or some of its members in embarking on a strike was an affront to the rule of law.
“The plaintiff says the said strike or partial withdrawal of services constitutes a serious threat to Ghanaians including the plaintiff,” he emphasized.
A statement of case accompanying the writ quoted Section 163 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) which states that a worker engaged in an essential service shall not resort to a lockout or strike in connection with or in furtherance of any industrial dispute involving the workers in the essential service.
It also quoted Section 175 of Act 652 which defines “essential services” to include areas in an establishment where an action could result in a particular or total loss of life or pose a danger to public health and safety and such other services as the minister may by instrument determine.
“Because the respondent falls within the essential service category and its members are prohibited by law from embarking on strikes, the applicant, pursuant to Article 42(b) of the Constitution, is entitled to defend Section 163 of Act 651 by bringing an action for the enforcement of the said Section 163 of Act 651,” it said.
Apart from that he argued that every Ghanaian was entitled to access health services within the terms of the law and that by embarking upon a strike or the partial withdrawal of services, the GMA had denied or curtailed the right of Ghanaians, including he (Amuzu) to access fully, medical services in public health institutions.
“This unlawful restriction or curtailment of access to health services constitutes a serious threat to the health of many Ghanaians, including the applicant.
Therefore, the respondent’s strike violates the right of the applicant to access health services in public health institutions,” it said.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu