The decision by junior doctors at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital to lay down their stethoscopes and stay out of their consulting rooms has unsurprisingly sparked a fresh round of criticisms that doctors see themselves as a special breed of professionals who can hold the nation to ransom every now and again. The Komfo Anokye doctors chose a rather opportune day to start their strike – May 1st (workers’ day), a day when much attentions is focussed on the workers of the world . They are demanding, among others, a review of their salaries and the payment of allowances which have been in arrears for more than a year.
No one likes to see doctors go on strike. When they do, the nation’s already cranky health delivery system grinds to a near-complete halt. The cost of such strikes – in terms of lives lost and the misery of the sick – is often too much to count. A good number of Ghanaians think that doctors in this country are too demanding – they call a strike (or threaten to call one) at the least opportunity.
We must all realise, however, that it is hard to be a doctor in this country. I have many friends in the profession and I know of the long work hours they have to endure, often using obsolete equipment to try and save lives. Our doctors are often compelled to look on helplessly as people die of diseases they know they could easily have treated if conditions were right and if the right equipment were available. Our doctors work under trying conditions, which expose them to serious health risks they would never have encountered if our hospitals were as well-run as they should be.
I think our doctors are a special breed, indeed. They do make enormous sacrifices and our government has no right denying them their due. Delaying the payment of their allowances for months on end is inexcusable. Failing to re-negotiate their conditions of service for years is the highest form of governmental irresponsibility, especially considering the fact that these are professionals whose services are in high demand elsewhere. The least they have to do is to just jump on the next available plane and fly away. Someone elsewhere will embrace them with open arms and give them what they deserve – state-of-the-art equipment to work with, the heftiest of paycheques and assorted perks.
This country loses many of its doctors to the developed world every year. I may be wrong but I think there are more Ghanaian doctors practising abroad than there are in this country.
I have a doctor friend who has worked for well over ten years, determined to give back to this nation what has been invested in her. Every day and every night she works under the most trying conditions to do her best to do what she’s sworn to do. But at every turn she’s confronted with enormous frustrations that make her question the sense in her decision to stay on while her colleagues travel abroad for better prospects, financial security and job satisfaction. After ten years, she’s “had enough” and she’s ready to go. “I have paid my dues,” she says.
I think she’s made the right decision. If I were in her shoes, I would have moved out without any hesitation years ago. It is a big shame that while our political leaders say there is no money to pay essential professionals like doctors and teachers, they manage to raise funds to buy luxury cars, fly first class around the world, build luxury mansions and even get enough change to steal and stuff in their pockets. Isn’t it outrageous that while doctors’ allowances are needlessly delayed and we are told that the country is broke our retiring politicians are demanding hefty ex-gratia (gifts) which we all know they haven’t worked for and, therefore, do not deserve?
When I see our leaders enriching themselves on one hand and turn the other way to see doctors crying for improved service conditions, I find it pretty hard to criticise our medical professionals for failing to live up to the oath they have sworn to save human lives. They took the Hippocratic Oath as a means to an end which goes beyond just saving the lives of others; they owe it to themselves to save their own lives by making sure that they make a living (earn enough to pay their bills). When I fall ill and go to any of our decrepit hospitals, I’d rather be treated by a well-fed doctor than by a hungry one whose mind is easily set wandering, thinking about how he’s going to pay his bills.
I therefore don’t buy into the idea that the doctors are being unreasonable with their strikes. If you are looking for people who are failing to reason, check out the government agencies where there are bureaucrats and politicians, whose selfishness, greed and sheer incompetence makes it almost impossible for the doctors to get what they deserve. They are the ones we should direct the full force of our anger at – not the doctors.
Whiles at it, could someone please tell the health minister, George Sipa-Yankey to cut the crap and focus on resolving the crisis? His suggestion that the strike at Komfo Anokye is politically-motivated is ludicrous.
“I want to ask why is it that when this issue started in 2006 up to 2008 – two whole years – why didn’t they go on strike?” he asks and adds: “President Mills comes to power and within four months they go on strike.”
With words like these, Sipa-Yankey wants us to believe that the political opposition instigated this strike to make the Mills administration look bad. I don’t know where he got this ridiculous notion from but it could be borne out of the fact that the latest doctors’ strike started at Komfo Anokye, which is located in an NPP stronghold. Is Sipa-Yankey telling us that all the junior doctors at the hospital are NPP supporters or sympathisers?
Such warped reasoning, exposes Sipa-Yankey as a weak-minded man who can easily be pushed to his wits’ end in times of crisis – and this is the first crisis to confront him in office as health minister. If he cannot competently resolve the issue so that there is a win-win situation for us all, the least I expect is for him to shut the hell up and get hell out! He should not make a bad situation worse with silly comments, which will only stoke passions and leave the doctors with no other choice than to take entrenched positions. We the ordinary, long-suffering people who cannot afford medical treatment abroad need them back at work immediately!