13 February 2013

Ghana: Patients Left in the Cold

At a time Members of Parliament have been handed a whopping GH¢7,2000 salary each, and an additional rent allowance of GH¢50,000, doctors in the country have had another cause to abandon duty in protest against anomalies in their salaries a year after they have been migrated onto the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS)

The doctors served notice a fortnight ago of their intent to embark on a strike action, unless all outstanding issues concerning, what they termed as anomalies on the new pay structure, were addressed.

The doctors have since their migration onto the new pay structure in 2011, complained about distortions in the grading structures, and what they termed as an unscientific determination of their market premium by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission.

A visit to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital yesterday indicates that although doctors attended to emergency cases and in-patients, the hospital did not run an afternoon clinic.

This meant that most patients who turned up at the hospital in the afternoon had no doctors to care for them. Physicians and general surgeons, according to checks conducted by The Chronicle, did not turn up for the afternoon clinic.

As a result, the Out-Patient Department of the hospital was virtually empty as at 3:00 p.m. when The Chronicle visited the facility, although the authorities say the place was packed in the morning.

Information gathered at the hospital indicated that doctors stopped receiving patient's folders at the Korle-Bu Poly Clinic later in the afternoon.

Mustapha Salifu, Public Relations Officer at the hospital, told The Chronicle that management was doing all it could to ensure that the situation did not escalate any further.

He explained that due to the delicate nature of the issue, management was being careful with its interventions, but hinted that a lot was being done behind the scenes to put an end to the strike. From Kumasi Issah Alhassan also reports that patients at the various public hospitals in the Kumasi metropolis are facing a harrowing time, following the decision of medical doctors throughout the country to withdraw their services to all out-patients, in protest against poor salaries and working conditions.

Like the saying that "when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers" patients are bearing the brunt of the decision, as many are being compelled to resort to alternative means for treatment.

Stranded patients who visited the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) with the hope of securing treatment for various ailments were turned down, as the medical practitioners continue to battle the government over salary discrepancies under the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).

Accusing the government of being indifferent to a ruling by the National Labour Commission concerning conversion and market premium under the salary structure, the doctors announced that they would attend to only in-patients and emergency cases until their demands were met by the government.

They have further threatened to intensify the strike by withdrawing all services in the next seven days, if the government failed to heed their demands.

When The Chronicle visited the Polyclinic at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, the atmosphere was very quiet, as the Out-Patient Department of the clinic was virtually empty.

Some patients who came for various forms of medical services told the paper that lots of their colleagues had come and left, but they had decided to stay with the hope that the doctors would have a change of mind.

Some said they had come for their regular checkups, whilst others said they were on referrals from periphery health facilities.

From the Volta Regional Capital, Ho, Samuel Agbewode reports that patients visiting the Ho Municipal Hospital have expressed concern about the ongoing strike action embarked upon by doctors in the country.

According to them, they did not even know that the doctors were on strike before visiting the facility, and that the action could lead to the loss of human lives.

When The Chronicle visited the hospital at about 9:00 a.m. yesterday, patients were seen holding their OPD cards, hoping to see their doctors who were not available.

Some of the staff at the hospital, who pleaded anonymity, told The Chronicle that even though permanent doctors at the hospital were on strike, the newly recruited ones and other professionals, including pharmacists, were still at post.

The Medical Superintendent in charge of the Hospital, Dr. Gafatsi Normenyo, confirmed the strike action, but explained that the action of the doctors had not affected patients already on admission.

Dr. Normenyo hoped the concerns of the doctors would be addressed by the government for them to return to post.

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