Feature Article of Thursday, 7 February 2013

Columnist: Ismaila, Hamza

Re: The plight of Bolga Nurses and Mid-wives Trainees

The above feature by Mr. Kashaa Nuhu published on Ghanaweb at http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=263946on Sunday February 03, 2012 refers.

I wish to react to this said publication in my private capacity as a citizen of the republic, notwithstanding my current employ with the Ghana Health Service, who wishes to set the records straight concerning the aspersions cast against one of the outstanding Regional Directors of Health Service the Ministry can boast of. My reaction is informed in part by my knowledge of some of the issues raised and in another breadth by my working relationship with the accused person and his office (Dr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams and the Regional Health Directorate, Upper East Region). However, in doing this may I state clearly that views expressed by me do not in any way represent those of the Ghana Health Service and/or the Ministry of Health.

· Yes, it is true that somewhere in the second quarter of 2011 a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ministry of Health and the National Service Scheme to allow for not only tertiary nurses and midwives, but for all other health professionals like doctors and other paramedical staff who hitherto were not roped in the loop of the National Service Exercise, to do this all important one year national assignment. However, the signing of this MOU brought to light the realization that the academic calendar of the Health Training Institutions of the Ministry of Health, which is not in sync with the national service calendar, leaves student nurses (RGN & RGM) with a fallow period of about eight months to the commencement of national service in August after having finished their final licensure examinations in Nov/Dec the previous year; which fallow period these trainee nurses/midwives continue to draw allowances from the consolidated fund whilst rendering no service to mother Ghana. To ensure that trainees do not continue to enjoy unearned salaries when they could have been rendering needed services to the country, the Upper East Regional Health Directorate under the leadership of Dr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams proactively resolved to as a matter of policy temporarily deploy trainees during this fallow period to facilities and communities where their services are in dire need. (This innovation I know the Ministry of Health found as laudable and wished that other Regional Directors emulated). Getting to the start of the national service exercise, the Upper East Regional Health Directorate liaises with the local office of the Nurses and Midwives Council to recommend facilities / institutions in the region the National Service Secretariat should post the trainees to in order not to throw overboard the recently espoused policy of ‘regionalization of health training institutions and their products thereof’. As with all other endeavors, it is not uncommon to find occasions when the NSS does not abide by the recommendations, as it is not obliged to anyway, of the NMC/RHD. In these instances, it takes only negotiations and pleas for the NSS to barge.

From this, it is clear that the assertion that “the Health Directorate of the Upper-East region, headed by Mr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams with much mendacity does its own internal posting of the nurses and mid-wives trained in the region to the various health institutions without the knowledge of the National Service Secretariat” is not true. It is however out of reason and wisdom to consider the resolution by the UERHD to engage trainees who have completed their studies and are awaiting national service postings to be rendering services to the people of the Upper East Region thereby justifying the allowances they are being paid as out of standard practice. Of course the standard practice where these trainees enjoy unearned salaries only suits the whims and caprices of Mr. Nuhu.

· That the practice where Dr. Awoonor-Williams places embargo on the allowances of trainees who have absconded post (vacated post) is sound and in line with the Financial Administration Regulations 2004. In exercise of section 298 (1)(a) of the Regulations, a “head of department shall cause the immediate stoppage of the payment of salary to a public servant when the public servant has been absent from duty without leave or reasonable cause for a period as stipulated in the administrative regulations of the establishment”. That for the fact that the UERHD instructs banks, and not the Accountant General’s Department to place embargo on the allowances of the trainees who have vacated post, lends itself to a criminal objective of siphoning off these monies is untenable. This is because, from experience whiles its takes the local section of the Ministry of Health’s IPPD a longer turn-around time to place embargos on salaries given the average quantum of over 83, 000 inputs the section battles with per month, it is relatively swifter dealing with the banks to do same thereby cutting short the duration in which these trainees would have continued to enjoy unearned salaries.

As regards the assertion that the Regional Director connives with the banks to siphon off these monies, it is standard practice that in such letters specific instructions are given to the banks to return all those unearned salaries to government chest; which directives the banks are bound by the Financial Administration Regulations to carry out. It is therefore difficult to comprehend how the Regional Director can in anyway collude with the banks to squander these monies. In any case, audit activities which are usually carried out in these areas would confirm or dismiss this assertion eventually. From these clarifications, it is obvious that Mr. Nuhu and his cohorts are not comfortable with the wind of change blowing through the Upper East Region. Whilst, it is laudable that disagreements are expressed, it is only prudent that in expressing these divergent views much decorum and care should be taken as regards respect for the other, (authority), upholding the guiding principles of truth and ethical professionalism in journalism, and following laid-down procedures of seeking redress in the Ministry of Health/Ghana Health Service. The Regional Director, it must be noted, is not a divine entity. He is answerable to the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, and the Ghana Health Service Council in case of disciplinary issues.

Obviously intended to malign and mudsling the Regional Director, the import of Mr. Nuhu’s publication is not to seek redress. For the purposes of readers who know very little about the Regional Director, it takes only a google search on him, and you would be amazed with who he is. To me and to all objective-minded Ghanaians, Dr. Awoonor-Williams is one of the best things to have happened to the health sector of mother Ghana. Proudly so, he has been honored twice by the nation with the order of the star of volta award. He is an incredible officer with an impeccable service record dating back from his days as District Director of Health Service.

He is however not infallible and as such might have his shortcomings as a Regional Director. But to seek to denigrate a cleanskin in this manner is obviously unacceptable and must be condemned in all certain terms.

Hamza ISMAILA AF 2716 Adenta Hamza2g3@yahoo.com