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Opinions of Sunday, 9 August 2015

Columnist: Armah, Patrick

Stop the IMF propaganda and negotiate with the doctors

The Progressive People’s Party (PPP) is saddened about the unfortunate strike action embarked upon by Doctors, Pharmacists and Nurses over the determination of conditions of service. The challenges of essential service provision in this country are very disheartening because of the lack of modern equipment to facilitate work. But to compound this with human resource problems is to consign the vulnerable people of Ghana to needless death. It is very clear that health officers feel marginalized, to the extent that being a professional in Ghana is not rewarding.
We are aware of the period when doctors had no choice than to make painful decisions to leave the country to seek greener pastures elsewhere due to the lack of appreciation for their services. The investment lost in the education of these health professionals, and the contribution of these workers to health care delivery could have been saved. We need all the health professionals we have to stay in this country. We must all help through decent language, encouraging dialogue and useful suggestions to solve the problem at hand.
We commiserate with Ghanaians in this difficult time since the poor masses are the ones who would have to bear the brunt of the strike action because the rich and political appointees can always travel outside or pay for expensive private health care.
The attitude of government in always using party communicators to resolve labour issues in the media rather compounds the situation. Government must take full responsibility, demonstrate competence and exercise duty of candour in resolving these issues. We call on President Mahama and the Chairman of the NDC to reign in their people and ask them to cease and desist from heaping insults on the health professionals. It is regrettable that instead of addressing the merits or demerits of the demands of the medical doctors, this public health problem has become another arena for senseless politics with NDC and NPP officials accusing each other to score cheap political points. We are asking why anybody would walk over the needs of hundreds of thousands of sick people to gain political profit? This is a matter for government negotiators to deal with.
This penchant of playing politics with our health care system cannot continue. We would have no explanation to give, if we allow politics to divide us and fail to offer the best healthcare to our citizens. There is the need for us to take off our political colours and lenses, to collectively deal with the lack of sufficient medical personnel retarding efficient healthcare delivery. It is widely acclaimed that Health is Wealth and so it is needless for us to play politics with our healthcare. We must get serious about the people's health and cut out the politics.
We wish to remind President Mahama and the NDC government that leadership is not about propaganda. Sowing seeds of discord cannot be an alternate for pragmatic solutions. Government must get real, be sensitive and not take Ghanaian professionals for granted. We appreciate the President's point about sticking to the budget. We actually hope and pray that he musters the courage to do just that. But what does that have to do with conditions of service meant to take effect in a budget year different from the one we are in? What problem is the President seeking to solve? Is there something from the IMF that he is responding to that we do not know about?
Government must work with a sense of urgency to provide tangible solutions to resolve the raging impasse in the health sector. We dare say that the current strike action heralds undesirable consequences. Our health professionals must also set aside their pride and hurt feelings and consider the environment we all live in. Ghana cannot afford a long strike period involving our health professionals. We need them all.
So with all our compliments, the PPP is asking the leaders of our health professionals not to punish the people. You have made your point. Let's move on and protect everybody's interest. Our party will be first in line to support you if after going back to work government turns its back on your requests and does not negotiate in good faith.
Please forget about the politicians and their insults, including those who sought to lower your credibility by leaking the offer you put on the table for negotiation to the media and the public. We urge you to negotiate in good faith but go back to work because many lives depend on you.
Patrick Armah
Press Secretary
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