A directive from the Ministry of Health, ordering authorities at the country's premier teaching hospital, Korle-Bu, to pay new nurses whose salaries have not been paid for the past 21 months, is surely going to be a test case for the very survival of the cash-strapped hospital.
The Ministry of Health confirmed the new directive to The Chronicle yesterday, when the paper contacted the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry, Mr. Tony Goodman.
Over 600 junior nurses at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital withdrew their services on Monday over the non-payment of salaries and arrears for almost two years. The Ministry of Health has, however, directed Korle-Bu to use its internally generated funds to pay the nurses, but many Ghanaians are raising eyebrows over the ability of the hospital to pay the huge arrears and salaries of the nurses in question, considering the fact that the hospital itself has been crying for additional funds to keep running.
The premier hospital has, over the past few days, been in the news for all the bad reasons. Patients who visited the facility a fortnight ago had to pay newly introduced service charges, which are still pending approval before Parliament.
The hospital came under heavy criticism for charging the illegal fees, since the mandatory 21 parliamentary sitting days had not elapsed to legitimise the new fees.
But, the authorities at the hospital vehemently defended their action on the grounds that the new charges were critical for the very survival of the facility. However, Korle-Bu has admitted that it erred in charging the new fees, ahead of approval by Parliament.
The Acting Chief Executive of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Rev. Albert Okpoti Botchwey, defending the action of the hospital, said the current financial 'health' of the hospital makes it almost impossible to stop the new charges.
The hospital has subsequently reverted to the old charges, upon the orders of the Ministry of Health, but keen observers of how Korle-Bu is being managed are not blinking an eye on how the hospital could pull through with the new directive to pay its workers out of its internally generated funds.
Information gathered by The Chronicle indicate that Korle-Bu would now fall on monies which would have been credited to the accounts of the consolidated fund for the payment of the nurses, as a temporary measure to solve the current problem.
Rev. Albert Botchwey has said the management of the hospital is working around the clock to pay the salaries and allowances owed the nurses.
Again, Korle-Bu is mandated to seek clearance from the Ministry of Health on the number of workers it employs, but as to whether these directives are followed, it is certainly a major factor for the directive.
The new directive, which certainly positions the hospital between a rock and a hard place, is also likely to put the spotlight on how much the hospital is able to generate internally.