Doctors Strike Over Pay

Dr Opoku Adusei – President Ghana Medical Association

Medical doctors under the umbrella of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) have laid down their tools to press home their demand for proper conditions of service.

That was after a meeting between the doctors and the Ministers of Employment and Labour Relations, Finance and Health ended in a deadlock on Wednesday.

The doctors subsequently declared a sit-down strike action to demand for proper conditions of service, amidst threats to resign en masse. They have refused to admit new patients, threatening that after discharging inpatients, they would shut down the hospitals and look for jobs elsewhere.

A facebook post by presidential staffer, Stanislav Xoese Dogbe, which sought to incite the public against the angry doctors, seems to have provoked the doctors the more.

Most health facilities, especially in the capital city, Accra, were almost abandoned yesterday when our roving reporters went round.

The empty OPD at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital
Korle-Bu OPD Closed
The management of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital has already announced the closure of its Outpatient Department (OPD).

In a statement copied to DAILY GUIDE, the hospital said the measure by the GMA had affected outpatient services at Ghana’s premier health facility.

‘Management of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital wishes to inform the general public that its Outpatient services have been closed to patients as a result of the action by members of the GMA,’ it stated.

The hospital however, indicated that by the GMA measures, doctors would continue to attend to inpatient and emergency cases.

‘The hospital therefore, wishes to inform all patients who will require outpatient services to go to other private and peripheral hospitals in the metropolis,’ it added.

There were no doctors on hand to attend to patients yesterday except nurses and other supporting staff who were trying to give some first aid.

In certain instances, some doctors were attending to only emergency cases while patients were being turned away.

Scores of people who visited various public hospitals with the hope of being attended to by doctors therefore left disappointed.

Most of them, who had gone to the hospitals either for review or consultation, had no other choice than to look elsewhere for medical attention.

Unlike the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital where doctors were not caring for patients, the situation was different at the Ridge, Regional, 37 Military and the Police Hospitals where doctors were seen attending to patients.

Although the authorities at the Ridge Hospital declined to talk about why its doctors were at post, patients were delighted they were being attended to.

‘This always happens and we the patients suffer in the end,’ said woman who had brought a daughter to the OPD of the hospital.

The Ghana Medical Association gave a June ending deadline to withdraw their services completely if government failed to finalize a document that would serve as their conditions of service; but extended it a month further to give government more time to finalize and sign the document.

However, a meeting between the association and government a day before the deadline ended in a deadlock as the two groups could not find a compromise.

After almost four hours of negotiation, the representatives of the GMA came out announcing the beginning of a strike action that would see doctors first withdrawing OPD services, then emergency services and resigning en bloc.

“As we speak now the GMA is on strike,” General Secretary of GMA Dr. Frank Serebour, told a local radio station after the meeting two days ago.

The doctors say for several years they had worked without any single document that determines their welfare.

Apart from a two-week mortuary fee a doctor is entitled to when he or she dies, they (doctors) say there is nothing that indicates how they will be treated if they get sick or a family member gets sick.

According to them, they pay for their own medical expenses and those of their families – a situation they frown at.

Dr Frank Serebour said once the strike had begun, they would follow the road map.

In Tema
Doctors in the Tema area appear to have defied their leaders, as they cared for their patients.

Those at the Tema General Hospital are the only GMA members who have taken part in the protest over conditions of service.

They ignored patients at the OPD but worked from the consulting room.

Nurses were also spotted in all the hospitals such as Tema Manhean Health Centre, Tema Polyclinic, Ashaiman Polyclinic, Kpone Polyclinic and the Tema General Hospital busily providing OPD services as usual.

Dr. Opoku Adusei, Medical Director at the Tema General Hospital, who doubles as the President of the GMA, intimated to  DAILY GUIDE that his colleagues had tried to ‘minimise’ the impact on patients by initially abandoning the OPD but they might be compelled to join the strike action if government failed to yield to their request.

Meanwhile, Communications Director of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Solomon Nkansah, has questioned the integrity of the striking medical practitioners.

He believes the association has become more political than a professional group.

Solomon Nkansah, who has cultivated the habit of questioning the credibility of any individual or group that criticizes the government, believes the leadership of the GMA, is made up of members of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

He specifically mentioned the President of the GMA, Dr Kwabena Opoku Edusei, as a member of the manifesto planning committee of the NPP.

‘It is about time we speak hard to people to reason. I wonder what has changed that they (GMA) don’t have good leaders who love this country. They (GMA) love their political party more than this country,’ he fumed on Peace FMs ‘Platform’ – a political programme – Wednesday evening.

By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Jamila Akweley Okertchiri & Vincent Kubi, Tema

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