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08.04.2005 Health

EDITORIAL - Let's Give Health Professionals Their Due

By Ghanaian Chronicle

THE GHANA Medical Association (GMA) has been in the news this week, calling for action to be taken in honouring the payment of between 3 to 5 months' arrears of Additional Duty Hours Allowance (ADHA) to doctors and other health professionals.

It has also been revealed that the ADHA was introduced as a palliative against paying these health professionals realistic salaries and wages that they deserved. The terms of payment of these allowances have also been clearly spelt out.

It is therefore very difficult for anybody to understand why our doctors and their colleagues in the health profession would be crying out loud, over the persistent nationwide delays in the payment of ADHA. It is the ADHA that has been cushioning them against suffering ('wahala') from their not-too-good salaries.

It may be true that in our haste to placate the health professionals, as an attempt to circumvent the real solution, we had made mistakes. We must however, in our bid to correct these mistakes, not expose the doctors to the cause of their plight, which is hardship.

The real solution to the difficulties faced by our health professionals would be taking a decision to pay them what they deserve, as they have already become an endangered specie.

The GMA has pointed out also that the 'delay is a big disincentive to the affected, since it constitutes a greater portion of the take home pay of health professionals.'

It is very strange why we would want to play the ostrich, by not acknowledging the level of our health professionals in the priorities of our country and according them their due.

The GMA has cautioned the potential for this attitude 'to worsen the brain drain situation.' We cannot afford to be doing things that would push out the few doctors and nurses we have. The situation is already bad enough, for a country with over 18 million people having a doctor population of about 1,600!

We have heard appeals to our doctors and nurses in particular, to sacrifice and stay with us, to take care of our health needs. Unfortunately, we have over several years failed to acknowledge their contribution, by not paying them what their long-term training and expertise require.

We have failed to adequately provide them with the tools, necessary for their jobs. Thus, while they are daily overwhelmed by the patient-doctor or patient-nurse ratio, they do not even have what could enable them practise their trade satisfactorily.

These developments no doubt put these professionals under a lot of stress, and it does not take long for the most dedicated among them to call it quits. Such among them do not just travel abroad to seek greener pastures but more importantly for them, to look for environments within which their talents could be richly expressed and enable them fulfil the Hippocratic oath they subscribe to.

We have had enough of adhoc-ism in the handling of issues affecting our health professionals. Let us place them where they belong in our priority list as a country, and reward them accordingly, to stem further brain drain.

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