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Ghanaian Doctors Trade Strike For Cash

Ghanaian Doctors Trade Strike For Cash

On the 8th of April this year, the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) announced to the Ghanaian public that they were going on strike, because both the government and Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) have refused to address disparities that have affected their basic salaries, as a result of the implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).

According to Dr. Frank Owusu-Sekyere, Chairman of the Greater Accra branch of the GMA, prior to the implementation of the single spine, health workers were on a salary scale called Health Sector Salary scale (HSS). But when they (doctors) were migrated onto the single spine, the basic salary on the single spine was rather lower.

“Now the pension deduction is made solely on the basic salary, and it is against international labour regulations to make a worker worse off, migrating from one pay scale to another. This worse off could be in terms of overall take home or pension deductions. Now, according to the government white paper governing the single spine salary structure, whenever the single spine’s basic pay is lower than the basic pay of whichever scale one is migrating from, an amount called conversion difference is to be paid to that individual, to bring the person to parity with the salary on the pay scale being migrated from. 

“This has a two prong effect; first, it ensures that nobody takes home a reduced salary, and second, that the person’s pension is maintained. When the single spine was implemented for doctors, the conversion difference was paid, and everything was fine until we realised that our pension deductions had gone down.

“When we made enquiries, it came to light that the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) had given the order for the conversion difference payment be stopped. We raised the issue with our sector ministry, and amidst denials from the FWSC, they eventually accepted that they had given the go-ahead for Controller and Accountant Generals (CAGD) to recover the conversion difference.

“A series of meetings ensued, culminating in the Ministry of Finance communicating to the CAGD not to recover the conversion difference until the issues have been resolved. The FWSC, demonstrating their penchant for breaching every agreement reached, unilaterally instructed the CAGD to recover the conversion difference. Since January 2012, every attempt to get it restored has proved futile.”

Though this reason, which led to the strike by the doctors, appears legitimate on paper, renowned Ghanaians such as the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Kofi Annan, chiefs and some opinion leaders have all called on the GMA to call of the strike and resort to dialogue to resolve the impasse, but they have been turned down.

The Medical Association has, instead, increased the pace of the strike by refusing to now attend to all emergency cases, except for those on admission.

This development has had a negative impact on health delivery in the country, but what is not known to the public is that some of the doctors are rather cashing in on strike, at the expense of their patients.

Reports reaching The Chronicle from the Ghana’s premier hospital, the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, indicate that an amount, ranging between GH¢10 and GH¢300 is being extorted from patients before they are allowed to see doctors who come to the facility on ‘humanitarian grounds’ to attend to the sick.

The trick is this – a nurse will approach relatives of patients who are in dire need of medical attention, to part with some money, with the assurance that the patient would be allowed to see the doctor immediately the money is paid.

Through this subterfuge means, The Chronicle gathered, patients have been compelled to part with money for these nurses to see the doctors, in order to save them from death.

One of the victims, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, told newsmen in Accra that she went to Korle Bu to seek medical attention last week. Whilst at the hospital, she was told that the doctors were on strike, but if she could pay GH¢200 for onward transmission to a doctor, she would be allowed to see the latter.

In fear of dying, the lady paid the money and was readily allowed to see the doctor in a consulting room, who attended to her.

A lady undercover investigator, who went to the hospital under the guise of suffering from malaria, was also made to part with GH¢10, which was used to see the doctor before she was ushered into the consulting room.

The encounter with the nurse and the doctor were all recorded.

According to the lady, she was approached by a male worker who enquired from her why she was at the premises of the hospital. When she answered that she was sick, the man responded that she was too beautiful to die, and that if she could give him money, she would be allowed to see a doctor.

The lady initially offered GH¢5, which was rejected, and after bargaining, the two settled at GH10.

According to her, immediately she paid the money, she was allowed to see the doctor, who attended to her, and even prescribed that she be given an injection.

The Public Relations Manager of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Mr. Salifu Mustapha, told The Chronicle in a telephone interview yesterday, that the alleged extortion had not come to the attention of the management.

He noted that the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital was a disciplinarian who would not tolerate such behaviour, if it is brought to his attention.

He noted that no doctor had the right to commercialise operations at the premier hospital, but the management could only act if they are provided with evidence.

He, nevertheless, promised a full scale investigation into the allegation.

Metro TV, which is also following the story, gave a pictorial account of the alleged extortion in its prime time news.

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