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Opinions of Saturday, 3 February 2018

Columnist: Kwame Asante

The ailing health ministry in focus

Formed in 1957, the ministry of health is the government agency or department that is responsible for the health of Ghana. Over the years, the ministry has been involved in providing services such as public health services, managing Ghana's healthcare industry, building most of the hospitals in Ghana as well as the medical education system as well as taking oversight responsibility for all the health related issues across the length and breadth of the country.

For over the past decade( 2000-2012), the health ministry was able to record a lot of success stories and this made a lot of people believed that really the health ministry did a lot of marvellous works and was able to distinguish itself from the other ministries ad far as the performance of their duties were concerned.

However, from the year 2012 till date, the health ministry according to some section of Ghanaians have failed to live to expectation. The ministry that gained a lot of applause from Ghanaians over the last decade is the same ministry that come under severe criticisms from Ghanaians of late. From the days of past ministers such as Honourable Shirley Aryeetey through to the days of Honourable Alexander Segbefia and to our current minister Honourable Kwaku Agyemang Manu, all indications really show that the health ministry is gradually dwindling down the drain.

All these ministers failed to perform their duties to satisfaction.

Reminiscing from some years back (2000-2012), hardly will we see or hear bonded nurses as well as allied health professionals picket or demonstrate at the forecourt of the health ministry before they're posted, however, that's not the case of late. Bonded trainees these days have to picket or even organise series of demonstrations before they're finally posted. Is this the right way to go? Is the health ministry really serious at all? Ordinary taxpayers die day in day out due preventable conditions, we have the technical people who were trained with this same taxpayers money and instead of the ministry to post them to render the required services to the nation, look at what is happening. The current health ministry has lost focus, the ministry is gradually branching off the road and this is the time for us to put them on their toes.

The nurses and teacher trainee allowances was scrapped under the erstwhile Mahama led administration because at that time, they felt the monies being used to pay these trainees could have been used for something else, people from all walks of lives criticised the government for scrapping the allowances but the then government never thought of reinstating the allowances. The current health ministry in conjunction with their government reinstated the scrapped allowance on 10th October, 2017, with this , the government injects almost 400 million cedis into the payment of allowances annually. It’s been almost five months since the allied health interns started their national service and up to now, some of them haven't received their internship allowances, the ministry is mute over this.

Checks from reliable sources indicate that it’s almost six months since the last batch of the bonded nurses and allied health professionals completed their mandatory national service, these batch of trainees should have been posted by now but the Honourable Kwaku Agyemang Manu's ministry keeps playing hide and seek with their postings. They keep tossing the trainees here and there. My worry is, should we always wait for them to picket at the ministry before they're posted? Isn't the health ministry ashamed of this annual ritual of picketing? When was the last time the education ministry waited for the teacher trainees to picket at the education ministry before they were posted? Can't we make hay whiles the sunshine?

This same ministry that keeps tossing trainee nurses and allied health professionals day in day out is the same ministry that was been able to inject 400 million cedis into the payment of trainee allowances, meanwhile this 400 million cedis could have been used to pay for 12 months’ salary of these unemployed bonded nurses and allied health trainees. Why should a ministry see the payment of allowances as an important prospect as compared to posting trainee nurses and allied health professionals who are bonded. Should we always be discussing this issue on our radio stations and TV stations before the ministry sees it to be serious?

Honourable Kwaku Agyemang Manu, please don't let this happen for the third time in a row, please do something before these nurses demonstrate against you. I am very much optimistic that Nana Addo had a lot of confidence in you that's why he handed over this enviable ministry to you. Please do well to ensure that you post these bonded nurses and allied health professionals because I remember during the 2016 campaign, Nana Addo promised these same nurses and allied health professionals that they'll be posted as soon as they complete their mandatory national service, it’s been almost seven months now since and if in case you've forgotten, then I'm using this opportunity to remind you. I will always be a citizen and not a spectator. Thank you