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20.04.2007 Health

'Mind your own business' - GMA tells new Director-General

By Times

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has asked the new Director-General of the Ghana Health Service to be more concerned about improving service conditions of doctors than criticise what they do with their private time.

"What doctors do with their private time, should be none of the business of the Director General," the GMA Secretary, Dr. Opoku Adusei, told the Times.

He was reacting to a publication in the Monday issue of the paper in which Dr. Sory accused doctors, nurses and other health personnel of using official hours to pursue their private businesses and asked those involved to either close down such businesses or resign.

Dr. Adusei denied the accusations and stated that doctors do locum or private practice only in their spare time.

He explained that the nature of the doctors' work is such that they do not operate within a time frame.

When doctors are employed, he said, the number of hours they should spend at work is not specified because they have no bargaining agreement with their employer.

He said, "It is where the doctor is located in the health sector that determines the number of hours he must work."

This, he said, means that if the doctor's schedule ends after four or five hours, the rest of the day is free "and how he utilises his free time is his sole prerogative."

"If two people close from work and one decides to play golf and the other does work for which he has been trained, why would anyone want to punish the latter," he quipped.

Dr. Adusei recalled that in the past, doctors were not permitted to do private practice and for that reason, they were given allowances.

Now, those allowances have been scrapped and doctors have the liberty to do private business.

He said doctors have on numerous occasions suggested a re-introduction of the allowances and until that was heeded to "doctors will continue to do private practice in their spare time."

He said the solution to the problem would be to streamline the employment procedures within the health sector. so that before the doctor is employed, he could bargain with the employer on the conditions of employment.

He also urged the Director-General to speed up negotiations between the various professional groupings in the sector and government.

Speaking at a send off party organised in his honour by the Northern Regional Health Service Directorate in Tamale at the weekend, Dr. Sory is reported to have alleged that almost every health professional in public hospitals and churches had established their own health centres.

He described the practice as alarming and worrisome explaining that those personnel are pre-occupied with the running of their centres thus paying little or no attention to public service for which they are paid.