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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Columnist: Akyeampon, Nana A. D.

Doctors, Morality and Economic Realities

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant... I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required... I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm... If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help... If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

(The Hippocratic oath, ABRIDGED)

It's on again, like the seasonal rains...same arguments, same justifications and lives lost. The ordinary people bear the brunt. Doctors face harsh economic realities like any other member of the society. Government felt the consequences of strikes from health personnel are grave and irreversible so placed laudable measures to ensure they do not resort to strikes to back their demands for better working conditions but was government doing this just to intimidate and coward them into submission? What really was the government's motives regarding this law..I would have thought that coming up with such a measure, government will put in place mechanisms to ensure their grievances are addressed so we don't find ourselves in this mess in the first place. By labeling their services as 'essential' , it was the duty of government to do all that was within its power (..including "with immediate effect" letters) to address issues as they arise to prevent every possible strike action since we know definitely lives would be lost should doctors resort to such actions.

This however did not mean doctors should take advantage of their privileged services and positions to make unrealistic demands, or realistic but untimely demands and hold the people to ransom to endanger lives, after all the Government has a limit as to how far it can go in terms of remuneration. It is unacceptable for trained doctors to deny health-care access (..a fundamental right) to the sick contrary to the spirits of the Hippocratic oath. It is of course shameful for corporate GMA to elect to punish a man when he is at his sickest/weakest, when he is at his painful worst and made to die while they refuse to go for constitutionally sanctioned arbitrations to settle labor disputes. No reason at all should warrant this and the GMA will do society and in the long run, itself a lot of good to resolve to elect leaders who can think through alternatives to get disputes resolved without resorting to strike which is cheap and (boyishly) student-like.

All over the corporate world, clients are held to the highest esteem and smart professionals will always act in a manner that wins the confidence of their clients and the public even if they gain nothing directly from the clients or public. In Ghana it is the opposite when it comes to Doctor/Nurse - patients relationships. Rather Paradoxically, the average Ghanaian has a highest respect for doctors and Ghanaians generally treat their doctors very well and a number of doctors will attest to this fact. Some malpractices even go unpunished and uninvestigated because of this high regards the people give to this profession. It is therefore sad that if the GMA felt a need for any action at all for good conditions of service, they will select to target these innocent, beautiful Ghanaian people who hold them to this esteem, yet have no say at the negotiating tables, while refusing to seek legal redress from arbitration or even CHRAJ from the very beginning. The GMA rather chose to punish the innocent people for the inaction of those who can afford to travel elsewhere for treatments.

Doctors have a point, they are clearly being bullied and taken for granted by the FWSC, the figures are not adding up, they've compromised a lot and made lots of concessions yet there are still serious irregularities and rather frustratingly, reasonable explanations are not forthcoming from the FWSC so they should actually press strongly for rectification of any non-payment of legitimate hours worked and push to be placed on the appropriate position on the SSSS even though it's now looking as if the SSSS will not work for doctors...Facts emanating indicate perhaps the Government may have to consider a different scheme altogether for the doctors, at least to reduce the manner in which the Government is sounding and appearing ridiculous over some of its explanations of the irregularities...but can our doctors think of a different way of resolving all these that wouldn't victimise innocent people? Lives are precious and ONCE lost its irreversible, some conditions can even deteriorate beyond reversibility during this strike period and doctors who have sworn to exercise the best of judgments to save and preserve lives should have known better.

In the midst of economic hardships and the hard work it takes to make it to, and through Med School and the legitimacy of their concerns is it all really about doctors' greed and avarice or it is rather about Government's pathognomonically slow and inappropriate response? The GMA hinted of discrepancies, the GMA served notice of impending strike, GMA reminded Government of impending strike and GMA has given indications of an indefinite strike, what did Government do, how did Government respond and how competent and effective is Government's actions now to end the strike? Were bodies like the CJA, AFAG and the rest see the point the doctors raised, could they have hit the streets and demonstrated on behalf of the GMA? Can't Government's overall inaction be read as their green light for the strike? Is the Health Minister going to remain in the Health Ministry to add pepper to injury? If the Mills administration has any credibility left at all regarding this matter then the best way of protecting that will be to fire Yieleh Chireh immediately in order to win the confidence of health workers and Ghanaians in general.

As of now there do not seem to be any solution on sight but I think both Government and the GMA have failed the people...The Government left the people at the mercies of striking doctors without any prompt workable and sensible intervention except disastrous threats from clueless Government officials..it is understandable that the Prez should not interfere in matters where appropriate state institutions are in place to resolve disputes but when they fail, to the extent that a life-death crisis looms, the President will have to intervene. He cannot turn a blind eye as the nation burns while the GMA tenaciously continuously betrays the very core tenets and essence of their Profession.. Regardless of the outcome, even if these Doctors are paid a Million Dollar for each 1000hrs/month it's still a loss not a win because it won't bring back lost lives, it won't relieve pains already suffered as well as the anxiety and the panics caused the general public. GMA, Gov't, FAILED (F+) Core Professional Ethics, Lawfulness, Conscience for Cash - way to go docs!!

Nana A. D. Akyeampon

ointegrity@yahoo.com