MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTIST
Over the past few days, the healthcare sector has been in crisis due to the industrial actions of Nurses, Midwives and related groups led by the Ghana Registered and Midwife Association. The action was about conditions of service. In the year 2018, Medical Laboratory Scientist protested about their conditions of service followed by Mortuary workers in 2019.
Unfortunately, innocent Ghanaians had to bear the cost of the crisis. As the strike continued, patients who were stranded begun to accuse the striking nurses and Allied professional groups of being to hard on them. On the 22nd of September, 2020, I personally saw a young lady who was waiting in a queue since morning collapsed at the OPD and had to be rushed out of a public hospital in a private vehicle for possible attention in a private facility.
I later learnt the lady gave up the ghost during the journey. Can we solely blame these professionals for the needless deaths or direct the anger at the politicians who created the animal farm for the health sector? The Ghanaian healthcare system today can be likened to an animal farm where some class of professionals are given better conditions of service leaving others to cry for themselves.
One would have expected a healthcare system built on equity and mutual recognition of professionals based on the fact that each professional group contributes to the eventual management of patients. The healthcare work is a teamwork and it is expected in structuring, remuneration and other services benefits the value of teamwork is considered. The opposite is becoming the case looking at the current happenings and the agitations in the sector.
One is tempted to asked if actually the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission that negotiated conditions and salaries on behalf of the government for public officers is FAIR. Do they have to think that denying the worker better conditions of service is the right way of protecting the public purse? Though workers may never be satisfied with their pay and accompanying service conditions, the standard should be that equity must be valued.
How come groups of professionals are assisted by government in the form of rent allowance, fuel allowance among others while others whose incomes are even lower are not supported the same way? Are some professionals better than the others? If the current system continues, then we can only expect more agitation.
Don’t we think it is time to reform the health sector and rebuild an equitable remuneration and reward scheme which is more equitable than it is now? Do we have to consider a standing commission for determination of conditions for healthcare workers since we consider them essential services? Do we have to take a relook at the National Labour Commision (NLC) and make it better than it is now? Can the NLC be made more independent than it is perceived to be now? How come the labour commission is quick to seek court injunction against striking workers but less able to enforce agreements between government and workers especially when it favours the Ghanaian public worker?
It is time we relook at the agencies of state and make them responsible and respected by the public than it is now. It is said that the worker deserves his wages. But the truth is rather, politicians deserve better wages than the average public and civil servants. No wonder the young are seeking solace and taking politics as a profession than service to the community and the public.
As the NLC was able to use a court order to compel the striking healthcare professionals to return to the wards and the consulting rooms, it is my expectation that the same urgency is used to bring finality to the issues that resulted in this avoidable industrial action.
As government deals and negotiates conditions for the nurses and Allied professional groups, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations must take note that other health professionals are watching. Let Ghanaians not be surprised seeing other healthcare professionals following the same path soon. Government should be fair to each health professional grouping.
God bless our homeland Ghana.