Cuban Doctors Not Solution – Minority
Dr Richard Anane
The minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) in parliament has stressed the need for the government to quickly re-engage the striking doctors and negotiate with them in respect of their conditions of service to reverse the worsening crisis in the health care delivery system.
According to the NPP, the ad hoc decision by the government to bring in Cuban doctors in the interim could not be an effective decision to stop the crisis because the Cuban doctors are not better than Ghanaian doctors and that the cost of importing the Cuban doctors would be much higher than amicably resolving the standoff with the striking doctors.
'When Cuban doctors are imported, they would have to be provided with free accommodation and be fed three times a day in addition to allowances that the government will be paying to them while their actual salaries would also be paid in dollars back in their country,' the minority said.
Making the call on the government to attach seriousness to the nagging labour crisis in the health sector, the ranking member of health, Dr Richard Anane, at a press conference yesterday, said the doctors could only be convinced to go back to work if the government could take steps to win their confidence.
The minority asked the government to take a cue from the Kenyan government which found itself in a similar situation last week and after the fifth day of their strike action that resulted in 11 Kenyans losing their lives, public outcry got the government to quickly sit down with the medics and the paramedics to negotiate on their conditions of service.
'Three weeks of doctors' strike in Ghana and government has refused to listen to them and rather unleashed its attack dogs on the striking doctors,' the minority noted.
The party pleaded with the striking doctors to soften their stance and resume work in the interest of suffering Ghanaians and the nation as a whole.
The NPP accused the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and President Mahama of presiding over comatose health sector which is riddled with unprecedented labour agitations over unpaid salaries and conditions of service
'With proceeds from the oil sector, the economy was supposed to be more buoyant and this was to translate into the living standards and working conditions of Ghanaians. However, the Mahama-led administration has recorded more strikes than any political regime in the annals of this country,' Dr Anane said, noting that for the first time in the history of this country, junior doctors had to besiege the premises of the Controller and Accountant-General with mattresses and pillows to demand their unpaid salaries.
According to the minority, the frequency of strikes in the Mahama regime had also brought to the fore the weakness of the Labour Commission hence the minority was calling on the government to immediately reconstitute the Board of the Commission to ensure effective implementation of its mandate.
The minority also took on the government for almost collapsing the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) bequeathed to it by the NPP administration, indicating that the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) had been indebted to health service providers since January this year while remittance to the NHIS from the consolidated fund is in arrears of GH¢456.4 million, which had compelled those service providers to stop providing health services to NHIS card holders.
'The NHIS is suffocating, Ghanaians are dying, the gains made in health delivery in respect of the Millennium Development Goals are fast eroding as indeed, we are fast approaching 'ground zero' where we began,' Dr Anane said, stressing that hospitals and clinics in the country are not able to meet their financial obligations, unable to pay their non-mechanised staff and are also facing shortages of essential medicines, medical and surgical supplies.
The minority therefore recommended to the government to cede one percent of the 2.5 percent – that is 40 % of the VAT – recently introduced for infrastructural development to the NHIS to help address the perennial funding gap that has bedeviled the smooth operation of the scheme.
The minority in parliament also challenged the government to name all the 4,800 community-based health and planning services (CHPS) compounds it promised Ghanaians in its manifesto.
'Can the government also tell the nation the cost of construction and operationalisation of one CHPS compound?' the minority queried.
The minority also expressed disquiet over the ceiling that the present government has put on enrollment into the nursing and midwifery training institutions.
'We find this cap on enrolment very outrageous and in bad taste because we are in a country where patient-to-nurse ratio is as high as 3,500: 1,' the minority stressed.
The NPP also questioned the whereabouts of the GH¢29.9 million from Ghana's oil revenue approved by parliament this year for the construction of a new maternity facility at the Tema General Hospital, construction of nurses' flats at the Akuapem North District Health Administration, rehabilitation of Axim Hospital, supply and installation of medical imaging equipment in selected regional hospitals, supply and installation of oxygen plant at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and construction of offices for Nurses and Midwives Council because no signs of such projects could be seen.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr