Brain drain refers to the massive emigration of highly skilled professionals from one country to other countries. The reading public would recall that in the 1990s and in significant parts of the 2000s, Ghana suffered brain drain in the health sector. This became a national concern. The brain drain problem in the health sector at the time was chiefly caused by the desire of many Ghanaian nurses and other health professionals to look for greener pastures elsewhere. In her bid to solve the problem at the time, the Government of Ghana (GOG) started bonding trainee nurses to enable them stay in Ghana for a while after training and serve the nation.
Another solution to the problem was the introduction of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), which pays the nurses higher salaries and market premiums than what they were paid on the erstwhile Ghana Universal Salary Structure (GUSS) and the Health Salary Structure (HSS). Another factor germane to finding a lasting panacea to the brain drain problem was the increase in the number of private nursing training institutions as well as the increased in-take of students into all the nursing training institutions in the country irrespective of ownership.
Nevertheless, the nurses and other health professionals still hope for better conditions of service in Ghana. Definitely, the hope of a reward sweetens labour. It has been scientifically established that the relationship between job satisfaction and work performance is a spurious one. The understanding is that motivation factors or rewards become intervening variables or catalysts in the job satisfaction- work performance nexus and make the relationship more meaningful.
In Ghana, the 1992 Constitution (Article 24, clause 1) states that “Every person has the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions, and shall receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind.”
With the brain drain problem dealt with, another problem has emerged and that is unemployment of the nurses after their training. The order of the day is the fact that unemployed nurses often picket at the premises of the Ministry of Health or the Flagstaff House to mount pressure on the government to offer them employment. The government tends to focus more on the employment of nurses who pursued the courses at the public nursing training institutions. Even that, it has been difficult to secure financial clearances from the Ministry of Finance to employ newly qualified nurses trained by the government nursing training institutions. Most of these nurses sit home for years after being trained and become jobless and hopeless. As a result, some of them engage in jobs that are not related to the nursing profession at all.
It therefore might sound a good news for most of these nurses, that the GOG has signed a bilateral accord with the North American island country called Barbados to enable the GOG export its nurses to that country. Even though the nurses to be exported are seasoned ones, their going to Barbados will logically create vacancies for other qualified and unemployed nurses to be employed.
Much as Ghana’s intention to export nurses to Barbados is not a bad thing in my view, there is the need to approach this enterprise in a way that our nurses are not short-changed in the process. Ghana has depended on Cuba similarly for doctor support over the years. As such, to export some our nurses to another country in need of nurses is a step in the right direction. However, it is imperative that the GOG and for that matter the Ministry of Health approaches the Ghana-Barbados nurse exportation accord in a way that the Barbadian Government does not treat the nurses badly.
It is good that in the interim Ghana is not going to send newly qualified nurses to Barbados but rather, we are going to send about 375 highly qualified nurses in the areas of critical care, cardiac catheterization, emergency care, perioperative care, ophthalmic and general nursing. Sending such qualified nurses to Barbados will help sharpen our competitive advantage in the deal.
Information is however scanty with regard to what the nurse exportation accord actually intends to fetch for Ghana. It behoves the Minister of Health to address the media with further information on the accord. This way, the public will become fully aware of the Ghana-Barbados Nurse Exportation Accord and its gains for the country in general and the individual beneficiary nurse in particular. In much detail, Ghanaians must know the conditions under which the nurses are going to work, how GOG will benefit and what the accord holds for the nurses in terms of remuneration and career development.
Whatever the arrangement is at the moment and whatever it will be as the exportation of the nurses unfolds, it is advisable that the GOG must not focus on the foreign exchange earnings for the country as a whole to just boost GPD to the neglect of the welfare of the nurses serving under the programme. Under no circumstance should this nurse exportation enterprise of Ghana lead to another form of slavery.
Besides, care must be taken so we do not use this arrangement to cause another brain drain of the nurses in the country. Until then, we can only wish well in advance, our nurses who will serve on the Caribbean Island country called Barbados with the motto Pride and Industry.
~ Asante Sana ~
Author: Philip Afeti Korto.
Email: [email protected]