Health workers must see themselves as members of a health brigade with the sole mission of saving lives but never as death squads.
“The health profession is different from all others, since it deals with diseases and health, life and death. Therefore, anyone who does not feel strongly that what he/she has to do is to help people recover from illnesses and to prevent people from dying unnecessarily must not enter the health service,” Dr Mary Grant has said in an interview.
Dr Grant, a former member of the Council of State and medical practitioner, said “at all times health workers must place the love and affection for the patient above their self interest”.
She said while it was difficult to understand why successive governments had failed to improve the lot of health workers, “life and health are the most important possessions of the human being”.
“Everybody wants to live, nobody wants to die, nobody wants to suffer ill-health,” she emphasised.
Dr Grant said working in the health service was a calling which should come with adequate remuneration and chastised successive governments for lacking the will to deal decisively with the problem.
“For decades, health workers have been battling for fair wages. Wherein lies the feeling of fairness from successive governments, since health workers cannot be pacified with the idea that theirs is a vocation? Wherever there is a will, there is a way but the powers that be have applied delay tactics for far too long,” she emphasised.
Nevertheless, she said, “I do not agree with my colleagues that they should drop their tools for even a second” because “we can never wake up those who die when we are on strike, nor mend limbs and other organs which the Creator made for them”.
“But it is our bounden duty, once we have undertaken to enter this profession, to stay with our duty or perform our tasks through thick and thin,” she stressed.
Dr Grant, accordingly, appealed to all health workers who were on strike to return to the job which they had taken on their own free will.
She, however, appealed to the authorities “to be true to what they say and tell the health workers by finding a solution to this perennial problem because every human being matters to somebody”.
“The authorities must know that in just the same way that they tend to mourn 'important' personalities, the ordinary people mourn the loved ones they lose when health workers forget their calling and down their tools to demand better conditions of service,” she said.
Dr Grant appealed to religious and traditional leaders to join hands in appealing to the health workers that “we know and appreciate their problems but they must ensure that they do not kill or murder because after their demands are met, they cannot bring the dead to life nor repair the damage done to the health of others”.
“We are all talking about the current electricity problem. We take it seriously. The life of people are more important than electricity and must, therefore, be taken more seriously,” she said mournfully.
She expressed dismay that the strike by the health workers had been eulogised by some Ghanaians as an expression of democracy and a right.
Dr Grant said while the problem of low remuneration and poor conditions of service for health workers were a canker, they had never been accepted as a norm.
“It is a failure of those who have to act to resolve the problem. But it is time we saw facts and not call black white or something that is bad good.
“The strike is not good; nothing can justify it, the same way that nothing can justify the failure of successive governments to ensure the proper remuneration of health workers to keep them in the right frame of mind and demonstrate commitment to duty.
“Let us all join hands in asking the health workers to return to work, instead of wilfully allowing people to die or suffer,” she intimated.
Dr Grant made reference to the film “The Fugitive”, which underlined the dedication expected of health workers.
She said although a film, “it really tells the story of what health workers, notably doctors, must do. The doctor in the film gave his own blood to transfuse the detective who was pursuing him, knowing fully well that the detective will drag him to court to face trial and a possible death penalty for a crime he did not commit”.
“It is very true that many of our health workers and the general public find it difficult to understand why successive governments have failed to resolve the question of satisfactory remuneration for health workers but that is no reason innocent people must be sacrificed,” she emphasised.
“There is the need for all Ghanaians to say that enough is enough. There have been too many strikes in a profession which must not do so to pursue the cause of their members,” she bemoaned.
Dr Grant underlined the fact that she was making her views open because “I am a human being, a mother and a doctor”.
The Health Workers Group has been on strike since Monday, while the Ghana Medical Association has called on the government to act decisively or it will advise itself at the appropriate time.
Story by Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh