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Opinions of Saturday, 12 November 2011

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Doctors And Teachers Must Be Respected

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

As the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) poignantly put it recently, the decision of striking doctors to return to work in the national interest must be unreservedly applauded (See “Nana Addo Lauds Doctors for Suspending Strike” 10/27/11).
Still, it ought to also be observed that while the reasons given by the doctors are laudable, those reasons alone are not sufficient enough, especially since the demand of these proverbial first responders for salary equity has yet to be met by the Mills-Mahama government. And here must be further recalled the fact that the striking doctors gave, among other legitimate reasons, the current flooding of large areas of Ghana’s capital by massive and unseasonal rainfall, which has, so far, cost a considerable loss of lives and property, as well as a Cri de Coeur from the general Ghanaian public.
It goes without saying, of course, that there is never a good or an appropriate time for first-responder personnel like doctors to embark on any massive and negative industrial action. And the stark reality of matters is that even without the evidently fortuitous intervention of the most recent massive flooding of Accra, the continuous striking of the doctors would have caused irreparable damage to human welfare and the general development of the country. Already, there has occurred a considerable and avoidable loss of human lives. The unsavory politicization of the medical strike was also a patently unhealthy approach to governance that ought to be avoided in the near future, if the country’s already ramshackle state of healthcare is not to further deteriorate.
In any case, I have observed this in the past and, once again, observe the same presently: that unless a law is enacted expressly prohibiting highly positioned politicians and public officials from seeking medical assistance and/or treatment abroad, the dismal neocolonialist state of medical services in Ghana will never undergo the requisite transformation and desirable improvement. And even politicians of mediocre caliber will continue to thumb their noses at dispirited striking doctors, as well as other paramedical professionals, with impunity.
Indeed, it was as a result of the foregoing state of affairs in the country that Mr. Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, for example, could cavalierly call for the summary banning of industrial action by doctors in the near future. For now, the Mills-Mahama regime ought to speed up the process of migrating our doctors onto the so-called single-spine salary structure. To be certain, doctors ought to have been among the first group of public servants to have been so migrated, followed by the very teachers who make the creation of the various recognized professional endeavors in the country possible.
Of course, we also all-too-eerily recognize the fact that for the autocratically minded key operatives of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) personal and collective political greed trump the general welfare and development of the country. In this aspect of responsible governance and leadership, I am afraid to have to boldly acknowledge publicly that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has fared just a little better than their NDC counterparts. What is ineluctably at stake here are the very soul and humanity of our national identity as Ghanaians. And on both counts, I am both afraid and mortified by the fact that there does not appear to be much that is worth writing about.
At any rate for the government, both the current one and any future government, to be able to plausibly impose any edict prohibiting disgruntled and woefully underappreciated doctors and teachers from embarking on any disruptive industrial action in the near future, at least an optimal minimum of service conditions unreservedly recognizing the special status of these socio-cultural and economic linchpins ought to be emplaced or instituted beforehand.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (, 2008). E-mail: