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Opinions of Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Columnist: Aboba, Mathias

Re: The plight of bolga nurses and mid-wives trainees

The Upper East Regional Health Directorate has noted with strong concern an article which appeared on this network on February 3rd, 2013 with the above headline and wishes to take the opportunity to clear the senseless allegations the writer Nuhu Kashaa leveled against the Regional Health Directorate and its Director Dr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams. We also deem it appropriate to use this forum to disabuse the minds of persons, or groups of persons or institutions who might have accessed the false information contained in the story.

First of all the Regional Health Directorate will like to make it clear that we regard the entire content and intent of the story as nothing but a crock of crap so intentionally fabricated by a selfish, ignorant and indiscipline fellow for the sake of parochial motives.

Going by the issues raised in the story it is not very clear whether the writer of the article is a health worker and in the Upper East region or not. His line of argument however, seems to suggest that he is within the health sector and perhaps in the Upper East region, but since like the devil he has chosen to conceal his identity perhaps due to his venomous intentions, we will presume that he is a stranger to the workings of the health sector in Ghana particularly regarding human resource management and regional health directorates. In this light the Upper East Regional Health Directorate seizes the golden opportunity to educate Nuhu about the Ghana Health Service particularly on issues pertaining to human resource management. We obliged to do this not because we think Nuhu and people like him deserve attention but because we want to correct the facts which have been twisted.

We also bring to light some development-oriented and local human resource-harnessing initiatives introduced by the Upper Regional Health Directorate which have proven to be very useful and are being replicated by other regional health directorates. As for his effort to blackmail the Regional Director of Health Services Dr. Awoonor-Williams, we have no doubt that Nuhu’s diabolic intention will not fly since everyone who has had the opportunity to experience Dr Awoonor-Williams work or read about his veritable leadership since his days as District Director to his present role as a Regional Director of Health Service will not take Nuhu’s wild allegations against him serious.

That notwithstanding, we wish to make it loud and clear that Dr. Awoonor has been and continues to be a disciplinarian and a strong advocate for financial prudence hence his strong adherence to the Financial Administration Regulations 2004, section 298 (1)(a) of which stipulates that 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 due authorisation for a period as stipulated in the administrative regulations of the establishment”. The said regulations further direct how and to where such unearned salaries or allowances must be paid.

It could not be true therefore as Nuhu prays the world to believe that Dr. Awoonor upon authorising the blocking of the salary or allowance of his staff who so merit such treatment, turns round to benefit in some way from the funds thereof. The health directorate finds this as the most unfounded allegation against the Director and wishes to indicate its readiness to cooperate for thorough investigation if Nuhu or any staff has any evidence of such claims.

It is very clear from the story that Nuhu’s take with the regional health directorate concerns the recent introduction of National Service program for graduates of health training institutions, a subject area he has no inkling of the systems in place and yet claims so much knowledge only to succeed in misleading the public and maligning authorities of the health service for no wrong done.

In the story Nuhu made scathe reference to the 2011 MOU between the Ministry of Health and the National Service Scheme and claimed the said MOU guaranteed national service for graduates from Health Training Institutions in any part of the country. He went further to point out that the objective of the policy was (in his poor view) to “strengthen and equipped deprived areas with health professionals since they are presumed to be scatted all over to do their National Service than the usual absorption at the urban centers”.

While Nuhu was quick to make reference to the said MOU ogling the opportunity it provides for personnel to get posted to any part of the country he assumed no knowledge of the discrepancy in the academic calendars of health training institutions and other tertiary institutions which results in Nurses and Midwives having to stay at home for eight months after completion waiting to be posted under the NSS during which period they still draw their student allowance for no work done while there is dire need for their services. He also failed to acknowledge that such an anomaly has been identified and yet to be worked out between the two bodies involved.

His remarks about the interim measure the Upper East Regional Health Directorate has put in place to remedy the situation was nothing less than insulting. The directorate knowing very well its precarious human resource situation saw the wisdom to post all trainees immediately after completion instead of waiting for eight months. We must add that these terms were reached with the students in appreciation of the paucity of human resources in the region particularly nurses, midwives and doctors and also in the spirit of saving the nation of funds expended for no service rendered. This initiative has indeed been lauded by the Ghana Health Service and other stakeholders but Nuhu for his unpatriotic and self-centered motives refers to the action as ‘mendacious’.

Again, while everyone commends our efforts to consolidate the gains made in the nurses and midwives situation in the region through dialogue with the National Service Secretariat regarding newly qualified nurses posting regulations of the GHS/MOH, which provides for regional health training institutions to produce graduates to feed local health facilities, Nuhu in his ignorance and sheer indiscipline goes lying to his readers that the health directorate took the decision all by ourselves.

We suspect that Nuhu is one of the few recalcitrant trainees who wanted to use the national service period to cheat the system and naturally got caught up by the law regarding unearned salaries and allowances. Hence as a sinking man we are not surprised he will clutch at anything including the spurious allegations that someone has plans to benefit from the blocked allowances of students. How senseless that sounds!

To make things much clearer the original arrangement that guarantees retention of nurses and midwives trained in the region was operated alongside the policy of one year mandatory rotation within the training region. So, under the new arrangement the one year compulsory rotation is the same as the national service. Clearly this does not leave room for manipulation by lazy and unscrupulous fellows like Nuhu who have diabolically misused the mass media not only to blackmail authorities but totally misled the general public. It is also a fact that the trainees’ knowledge of all these local and national initiatives dates back to their first contacts with the training schools. During the selection interviews when applicants are asked, they fully express willing and agree to work in the region upon completion of the course only for the indisciplined ones to turn round cursing authorities on claims of sitting on their interest.

We must also hasten to add that our decision to localise the national service is premised on the grounds that a scheme as good as the national service program is bound to displace deprived regions like the Upper East in terms of these personnel refusing posting to the region like Nuhu. It is not unknown that in every service year several hundreds of personnel posted to the Northern, Upper West and East regions refuse to go there but succeed in manipulating the system to stay at their preferred locations. If this is allowed to happen in the health sector your guess is as good as mine: health care delivery in the region will be greatly affected. Thankfully some people are ably ensuring that this does not happen and deserve commendation rather than condemnation as Nuhu has chosen to do.

Finally the Upper East Regional Health Directorate wishes to inform the public especially health managers, workers and all stakeholders that we remain committed to all national policies and standard practices in human and financial resource management. We also remain motivated by the impact we are making to keep the pace in local innovations for solving some of the grave challenges that impede quality, accessible and affordable health care delivery in the region. The directorate equally remains committed to the promotion and protection of the welfare of our human resource at all levels. We encourage and tolerate dialogue but we do not and will never countenance indiscipline and insolence.