House officers of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital have embarked on an industrial action to demand the restoration of feeding allowance to them.
The strike is, however, seen by the hospital authorities as unwarranted and unfair to patients. That is because in the appointment letters given to the house officers in March last year, it was stated categorically that “you would not be paid feeding allowance during the period of your internship”.
In the same appointment letters, for which the house officers were to acknowledge receipt and acceptance of the conditions not later than April 30, 2005, it was stated that “as an essential service provider, it is illegal to embark on any strike, as stipulated in Section 161 of the Labour Law, 2003”.
A statement issued by the Public Relations Officer of the hospital, Mr Mustapha Salifu, said as a result of the industrial action, the hospital had suspended the running of normal clinical services.
“The authorities have, therefore, limited the hospital's services to emergencies and in-patients only,” it said. It advised people requiring medical attention to call at other health facilities within the metropolis while steps were taken to resolve the problem.
Explaining the situation concerning the feeding allowance, Mr Salifu said it was introduced when there was no additional duty hour allowance (ADHA). He said it was introduced because in those days it took some time for the house officers to start receiving their salaries and for it to be mechanised.
Consequently, he said, the hospital and some other health facilities introduced the feeding allowance to support the doctors, pending the receipt and mechanisation of their salaries.
Mr Salifu said the hospital authorities decided not to pay the allowance again following the introduction of the ADHA and also for the fact that the hospital advanced the house officers their salaries from its internally-generated funds while waiting for the mechanisation of their salaries from the Ministry of Health.
He explained that the management of the hospital duly communicated this to the house officers during the interview and the decision was confirmed in their appointment letters which specified that they were at liberty to accept or decline the offer.
He said all the house officers accepted that condition, as evidenced by their acceptance letters which they all wrote and signed.
The PRO said the leadership of the house officers, however, pleaded with the hospital authorities to continue with the feeding allowance, pending the mechanisation of their salaries.
Mr Salifu said the hospital was magnanimous enough to agree to continue to do that, despite the constraints on hospital funds.
He said after the mechanisation of the salaries of the house officers, management wrote to inform them of the stoppage of the feeding allowance.
He said the group, however, wrote a letter of appeal to management to reconsider the decision.
Mr Salifu said when the group contacted the Director of Medical Affairs of the hospital, Dr Ben Annan, they were told that since the chief executive of the hospital had travelled outside the country, it should wait till he returned.
On his return, the Chief Executive, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, was said to have told the house officers that he needed the approval of the board of directors of the hospital before the decision could be changed.
Mr Salifu said the discussions were still going on between the chief executive and members of the board when the house officers wrote to inform management of their decision to embark on the industrial action.