The government will hold a crucial meeting with the leadership of junior doctors and other health groups today in an attempt to address the current industrial dispute within the public health sector.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Kwamena Bartels, who announced this at a press conference in Accra yesterday evening, reassured the junior doctors that their salaries and one-third of their arrears “will definitely be paid at the end of June 2006 without fail”.
“Meanwhile, we would like to appeal to the doctors and all the health workers group to return to work in the full confidence that the concerns they have raised will be dealt with to the mutual satisfaction of all,” he said.
Junior doctors in public health institutions embarked on an indefinite strike some few weeks ago over the non-payment of new salaries and corresponding arrears accruing to them since January this year.
On Wednesday, members of the Health Workers Group (HWG) also announced an indefinite industrial action, beginning on Thursday, in protest against what they considered as disparities and inequalities in their new salary structure.
Yesterday's press conference was the first time the government was responding to the agitation by the health professionals and, according to the Information Minister, it was in line with an earlier press conference jointly organised by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Korle-Bu and the Komfo Anokye Teaching hospitals.
Mr Bartels, who was flanked by his deputy, Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, and the Presidential Spokesperson and Press Secretary to the President, Mr Andrews Awuni, in the 15-minute conference, said the government was doing everything possible to get the doctors and other health workers back to work.
He lauded the efforts of senior doctors, as well as the Military Hospital, the Police Hospital and other public and private health facilities for providing services to ameliorate the suffering of the sick, the injured, expectant mothers and children.
Mr Bartels explained that the impasse had come about because of the need to set correct data to feed the computation of the new salary structure and indicated that with the completion of the data, the way was now clear for the implementation of the new salary structure.
When asked what the government's next option would be if today's meeting failed to achieve the desired result, Mr Bartels expressed confidence that there would be a satisfactory solution to the issue.
Story by Kofi Yeboah