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Opinions of Thursday, 31 May 2018

Columnist: Cephas K. Akortor

The laboratory physician of GCPS; a greedy hybrid

Human as we are, we live by faith and high morals. Without ethics and morality, the society decays and there is retrogression in national development.

However, a professional worth his salt can promise that he can be trusted not knowingly to do harm to his clients. A professional is not a novice but a skilled and competent person in the field he professes.

He knows his onions. He has high levels of personal integrity and self-regulation, such that he will not be swayed by bribes or other gratifications in the discharge of his noble services.

The word profess means to avow or lay claim to some expertise. Hence, we have professors who are university dons with specialist knowledge in particular fields of academic endeavor. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (11th Edition 2006) defines a professional as “a person having impressive competence in a particular activity.” It explains further that “a profession is a paid occupation carried out by professionals and not amateurs.”

So, to set the records straight and eliminate conflict of interest in the health sector, The Health Professions Regulatory Bodies ACT, 2013 (ACT 857) was promulgated. The ACT spells out who qualifies as a laboratory professional and sets out regulations and practices of all the health professions in Ghana.

The ACT is divided into parts: PART 1 - Allied Health Professions Council which includes the Medical Laboratory Profession; PART 2 - Medical and Dental Council (Physicians); PART 3 - Nursing and Midwifery Council (Nurses and Midwives); PART 4 – Pharmacy Council (Pharmacists) and PART 5 - the Psychology Council (Psychologists).

Ghanaian doctors are registered with the MEDICAL AND DENTAL COUNCIL which is under PART 2 of ACT 857, 2013 while the Medical Laboratory Professionals are regulated by the ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONS COUNCIL, PART 1 of the ACT.

Under Section 50 of ACT 857, PART 2, the Interpretation of “medicine” includes surgery, anaesthesia, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, psychiatry, public health, internal medicine, radiology and radiotherapy. In this tall list of areas mentioned under medicine, where the law enjoins one to practice under the regulations of Medical and Dental Council, there is no mention of a LABORATORY PHYSICIAN.

It is therefore illegal for another professional group to try taking the role of laboratory professionals. Anyone who wants to practice as such must be licensed by the AHPC otherwise he or she commits an offense by making false declarations under Section 48 where Offenses are described.

It is therefore prudent to pave way for the laboratory professionals to develop themselves to benefit the nation than to create illegal professional niches.

In Ghana, it is illegal for an individual to register with two professional groups in the country. Thus, if somebody wants to practice a profession, he or she must ‘deregister’ an already existing professional group he or she belongs and now register with the new profession he or she wants to practice.

As the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS) went on strike, I have gathered with dismay how some medical superintendents have resorted to using “cleaners” and unqualified people in their stead. Many patients would now be wrongly diagnosed and treated wrongly. Innocent people will lose their lives for not getting the proper diagnosis and blood that they need.

It is rather unfortunate that policy makers will allow the ordinary Ghanaian to suffer the consequences of their negligence.

Doctors who have direct contact with patients, have embarked on strike actions in this country over fuel and clothing allowances. Who asked somebody to work in their stead before? Why this time round where professionals like them are asking for a simple thing to ensure quality healthcare delivery?

That is the disrespect and suppression that medical laboratory professionals in this country have been battling with in the health sector. I’m sure they are doing so in order to paint an opposing picture to the general public the reality on the grounds and I see that to be in bad faith.

There is the need for laboratory professionals to have a directorate and be fully represented at management where they can have a voice to correct the rots in our system.

Recently, it has been reported that Stacy of NEIP died at the Obengfo Hospital and the alleged doctor who killed her, Dr. Obeng Andoh, claims he has had two weeks training in plastic surgery. The Medical and Dental Council got to know about this quack but because the doctor involved was their own, they were covering him until innocent soles have been lost. Imagine if this issue would have become public if Stacy was not a public figure.

If doctors cannot control their own professionals, how then can they control other professions that they don't practice?

Some doctors also deliberately give the identity of laboratory professionals to patients as lab technicians, can you imagine? For God’s sake, all of us are Ghanaians and every profession is important.

The inability of those in authority to feel the plight of ordinary Ghanaians and call a spade a spade instead of pleasing a self-seeking group of professionals who have no expertise in laboratory practice is causing a serious turbulence in the health sector and the overall effect is deleterious to the health outcome of Ghanaians.

If something should gain the attention of authorities to do the needful thing, it must be the plight of vulnerable patients and pregnant women who cannot afford to travel outside the shores of Ghana to seek medical attention. There is no doubt that the Medical Laboratory Science Profession and the respective medical laboratory facilities in Ghana are facing numerous challenges but because the professionals do not go on strike to demand money or anything from the government, people think all was well.

In this era of evidence based medicine, Ghanaians deserve better health care delivery through the quality Medical Laboratory Services which provides the evidences that support accurate medical diagnosis.

The Minister of Health is on record to have said that the request of Medical Laboratory Scientist to be independent and manage their own affairs cannot be possible due to the “alien” Laboratory Physicians trained by the GCPS.

A law by the GSA cannot be implemented because GCPS says it should not since they have created Laboratory Physicians which is even not recognized by law. I cannot imagine why an illegality could be supported by those who are to protect Ghanaians from same.

Is it the case of when it involves super powers, we could relax the laws? What is backing the creation of jobs for the so called Laboratory Physicians?

I am of the view that, Ghanaians should not be made to suffer because a College has created an “alien” nomenclature and want to force it down on the government and other professionals. As far as the laws are concerned, the LABORATORY PHYSICIAN IS AN “ALIEN” hence the truth must be told as such.

By: Cephas K. Akortor