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Opinions of Sunday, 23 October 2011

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi

Daily Graphic Spine: inflating doctors’ salaries by 105%

Ghanaian doctors would certainly have been better off negotiating with the Daily Graphic’s Unfair Wages & Salary Commission, led by journalist Dela Russel Ocloo, rather than engage in a tussle with an intransigent Fair Wages and Salaries Commission.

In a front page story published in the 21st October, 2011 edition of the Daily Graphic, the respected state owned media confidently put out fabricated current salaries of Ghanaian doctors that in some cases, represented as much as 105% increments over what doctors actually earn on their pay slips. According to the Graphic’s single spine salary structure, also known as ‘The Graphic Spine’, Senior Medical Officers have a “present existing salary of between GH¢ 3,469.53 and GH¢ 3, 970.44.” The evidence on the pay slip of a Senior Medical Officer however badly exposes the falsehood contained in these figures. Indeed, the pay slip of a Senior Medical Officer indicates a gross monthly salary of GH¢ 1900.00 which after tax deductions, comes to GH¢ 1600.00. The implication is that the figures put out by the Daily Graphic represent between 84% - 105% increments over what doctors actually earn!

The most ridiculous aspect of the publication is that the current gross monthly salary of the Specialist grade, which is two grades above the Senior Medical Officer, is also far less than the figures put out on the Graphic Spine. If a Specialist who is two grades above the SMO currently earns a gross monthly salary of GH¢ 2900, how can his junior, the Senior Medical Officer, earn GH¢ 3900 if the Graphic spine is to be believed?

It is safe to say that by this publication, the story written by Dela Russel Ocloo has caused the paper to engage in the kinds of antics that no doctor in Ghana would have ever thought the Daily Graphic capable of. It is also safe to say that if the Graphic Salary Commission can table the figures published on the negotiating table, the upcoming Compulsory Arbitration at the National Labour Commission would be completely unnecessary. On the second false allegation contained in the story that “GMA does not want the gap closed”, the rebuttal contained in the statement released by the National Executive Committee of the GMA, best articulates the position which is that “doctors have never had the position that no other category of health worker should ever earn anything beyond what is due a doctor. Rather, the GMA has insisted that whatever positions are arrived at through an objective job evaluation and description exercise ought to be maintained whether this pertains to doctors or non doctors.” Not wanting a certain mythical gap between doctors and other public sector workers closed has never been a bone of contention for doctors. The good people of this nation may need to ask a few critical questions at this material moment when it is fashionable to insult doctors. For over six years, fuelled by a similar mischievous publication in the privately – owned Statesman newspaper, Ghanaians have been held spell bound and enchanted in the falsehood that on the average, doctors earned GH¢ 4000 or forty million old cedis. The question is, if doctors were indeed earning GH¢ 4000.00 as far back as 2006, how is it, that in 2011, doctors are still alleged to be earning the same figure? It is now very obvious that for six years, many Ghanaians have been gullible victims of false propaganda on doctors’ salaries, believing that doctors strut the Ghanaian earth wielding GH¢ 4000 in their back pockets. Today, the obviously ill conceived attempt to reinforce this wool covering people’s eyes with the Daily Graphic’s fabricated metals, has badly backfired as the falsehood has been vigorously countered and exposed nationwide by doctors using the sword of truth and the indisputability of pay slips.

This is a good time for people to carefully reconsider the kinds of things they have been led to believe about doctors over the years which have primarily fueled erroneous descriptions of doctors as “greedy and insatiable.” Although it may be a bit unsettling for some members of the public to concede, it is indeed the situation that the doctors have always maintained a position of principle on these matters, while some members of the public at the height of gullibility, readily believe planted falsehoods which have succeeded in focusing public hatred and opprobrium against doctors. Fortunately, doctors are now doing a much better job of articulating their concerns to members of the discerning public whose support is critical. Perhaps, gratitude must go the Daily Graphic’s way for offering us this unique opportunity to free ourselves from the curse of mythical salaries forever.

At the very least, the Daily Graphic ought to honorably retract the story and apologize to doctors and to the Ghana Medical Association for libeling an entire group of professionals. Failing this, it may be worth seeking remedies at the National Media Commission against the shambolic stipulations of the Graphic Spine.

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

22nd October, 2011

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