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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Columnist: Tse, Frederick K. Kofi

When will the GMA go back to work, or, resign ?

It's getting heated now, and it does not portend well for us. The ever-crying members of the Ghana Medical Association ( GMA ) have ignited the fire of strikes again and now, pharmacists and nurses are warming up to strike. Ghana Education Service staffs and university teachers are jogging up to inform doctors and politicians that they did not teach themselves--they were taught by the chalk fraternity. It is important to admit that the employer has not been proactive and creative in matters of salary and conditions of service of the Ghanaian employee. Even experts agree that the Single Spine Pay Policy has not been well thought out.

However, the action of the doctors reminds me of a song by country musician, Tim McGraw: " You are the only one who feels this world has left you far behind, I don't know why you gotta be angry all the time".

Yeah, even though medical professionals are among the most respected and highly paid professionals in this country, they complain of money more than unemployed graduates. They are like a poor "gentile" who was very generous while poor. He ,however, became prosperous a few years later and won himself previledges in society and even became a Born-Again christian. But as irony would have it, he became rather stingy and began complaining and amassing wealth until greed overwhelmed his Born-again faith. Soon, his "gentile" friends wondered whether it was better to be Born-again or remain a generous "gentile". Well, that is the story of our doctors.
There is no doubt that doctors are essential service providers and that, I think, is why in addition to handsome salaries, not to talk of the generous pensions policy which they say has been denied them over the years, doctors have other previledges that many a Ghanaian worker does not have.
While everyone else is having to accept the Dumsor and economic crises that we are facing as a people, due to bad management by successive 'Johns', the GMA seems to think they have a birthright to exempt themselves from the collective pain we have to grapple with as a people. Sadly, the GMA says their strike action is about principle. A principle which punishes lives because of money at the expense of patients' safety cannot be separated from terrorism ,because, terrorists are the only human beasts who don't care how many lives their nefarious actions take so far as they get 'results'. This simply is "Science without humanity" as Ghandi would put it. Intelligence without virtue. The current crop of doctors seem to be substituting the lifelong tag of revered professionals for greedy and supercilous professionals.

I was lost in thoughts for minutes after I heard the news about doctors' threat of mass resignation for Better Conditions of Service (not salaries). And, In fact, as long as I thought about it ,I was struck over and over by the oddity and insanity of such a threat.
Already, there are numerous problems plaguing health care delivery in this country. Chief among them is the current Dumsor crisis which is worsening the plight of patients and also taking lives. Another challenge to health care is the inadequate health care financing. The private health insurance schemes are way too expensive for many Ghananains to subscribe to, yet, the "accessible" National health insurance Scheme too is on wobbling legs. And now, the spine (as the 'dead goat" calls it) of the health sector, medical doctors are threatening to resign.
Meanwhile, the dead goat has sent a message to the GMA and all those organised labour groups who are preparing to wear their striking kits, that he is still dead and hasn't resurrected.
The " dead goat's" comment seem to have relaxed the GMA's entrenched position, anyway. Now, the leadership of GMA say they are expecting their demands to be caterd for in the 2016 budget and not outside of the 2015 budget. This stance rather, turnéd out to favour the government seeing that many of us know that the "dead goat" will resurrect when the opposition parties kick start their campaigns.
But the leadership of the GMA are a greedy lot. They are asking for tax waiver when the president is now paying tax.
And those of them who compare themselves to politicians are not being fairly objective. They compare themselves to politicians when they know that the work of ministers of state and members of parliament covers more kilomètres than a medical doctor.

Herein lies the rub,
they claim government is imposing à document on them but in another breath they say government hasn't given them a condition of service document. So what document government imposing on them? On BBC radio , one Dr. Titus Ayebi ( or , whatever he calls himself) said, "government is not ready for negotiations" and in another breath he asserted, unless our DEMANDS are met, we are not returning to work". Question is: is the GMA ready for negotiations by sticking to those bloody demands? If you are not ready to relax your demands, are you poised for negotiations ?

The state should stop giving undue attention to medical practitioners. By granting the outrageous conditions of service demanded by the GMA , the state is making the sector overly attractive for uncommitted individuals who are only driven by money and greed. For now, the field is "reserved" for students from well to do homes and from well-placed schools, many of whom are not necessarily the best brains around. The more one thinks about their parochial demands the more issues of medical négligence and corruption in our hospitals come to the fore. Yet, the likes of them accuse politicians of corruption and inefficiency. Last time, I had to pay GH¢2000 to a doctor who had to operate on my mother. He demanded the amount as a motivation fee and I had to pay him because I was desperate to see my mother's health restored.
Even though, I have no interest in reading medicine , I have friends who were deeply passionate about reading medicine but could not get the opportunity because of the unprogressive admission requirements into the course.
It's important that the state impresses upon our universities to re-examine the admission requirement ,particularly, for those who want to pursue medicine. The criterion where priority/protocol admissions are reserved for students from rich and well-connected families, and also fee-paying students should be replaced by giving special attention to students from deprived schools who are qualified without necessarily making the "questionable" aggregate 6 or 7.
That way , we shall produce medics who are CALLED, rather than those who acquire skills only to make money. To the latter, ransom is their game.
Frankly speaking, the GMA has a case, since successive governments 'intentionally' delayed the signing of the conditions of service document, but the recent demands are just eye-dilating. Members of the GMA has the option of going into politics or football, if they want such outrageous conditions of service. The leadership should stop denting the image of the much-coveted profession by refraining from foul language,lies and incoherrent arguments in the media.
Until then, when are you returning to work, or, resigning ?

Frederick K. Kofi Tse