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25.04.2006 General News

Nurses, Paramedical Staff Call Off Strike

Nurses, Paramedical Staff Call Off Strike

Nurses and paramedical staff at public health facilities have called off their strike after a meeting with the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd).

Mr Raymond Tetteh, Chairman of the Government Hospitals Pharmacists Association, told the Daily Graphic after the meeting that the striking workers were satisfied with measures being put in place by the government to address their grievances.

Consequently, he said, the message would be conveyed to all members to return to work today.

"The government has promised to establish a neutral body to address the distortions in the salary structure and we, on our part, have agreed to go back to work," he said.

He declined to comment further on the agreement, saying that the government would issue a statement on the matter later.

Earlier, Mr Austin Gamey, a labour consultant, had said the strike by the nurses and paramedics was not the right way to draw attention to their grievances.

He said the Labour Law stipulated that it was illegal for workers to be on strike while negotiating for better conditions of service and added that the health workers had to go back to work.

He urged the striking workers to respect the ruling of the National Labour Commission (NLC), adding, “If they refuse to respect the NLC, it will be difficult for them to take any matter to the commission for arbitration in future.”

Meanwhile, patients keep trooping to public hospitals and other medical facilities in the hope that they will be treated.

A visit to some of the facilities in Accra revealed that in spite of the strike, some patients kept showing up at those places.

The number of patients who visit the 37 Military Hospital, where workers are not on strike, has shot up considerably. Health personnel at the facility told the Daily Graphic that the numbers were unusually high but that the authorities could cope.

Meanwhile, in the Volta Regional capital, Ho, nurses and other paramedical staff at the Volta Regional Hospital agreed to stay at post and see to only emergency medical cases following a durbar they held yesterday morning with the management of the hospital.

A spokesperson for the Health Services Workers Union, Mr John Kumah, told the Daily Graphic, “We are working until we hear from Accra.”

But when this reporter contacted the Medical Superintendent of the Hospital, Dr Geoffrey Nyamuame, he said the nurses and other staff had agreed at the durbar to stay at post but that they would only see to emergency cases.

However, the situation at the Municipal Hospital was totally different. There, nurses had completely laid down their tools and had told patients to go home because they were not working.

And in Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, health delivery at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and the other public hospitals had also been hit by the strike action by the Health Workers Group.

Over the past few days, members of the group have either refused to work or adopted a lackadaisical attitude towards work.

A visit to the hospital yesterday revealed that apart from a few units, such as the Oncology and the Polyclinic, other sections were feeling the heat of the strike.

Patients waited for long hours to receive attention from the few medical staff around. Doctors had to work over-time to meet the huge task at hand.

Some of the patients the Daily Graphic spoke to expressed concern about the situation and prayed that something would be done about it to save precious lives.

When the Chief Executive of KATH, Dr Anthony Nsiah Asare, who had travelled to Accra, was contacted on phone, he said the action was a nationwide affair and that it would definitely have an impact on health institutions, including the KATH.

At the Kumasi South Hospital, the situation was no different. Key units were not functioning effectively, as doctors struggled to contain the situation.

Authorities at the hospital said the action started last Friday but they managed to persuade some nurses and paramedics to stay and take care of the few in-patients.

According to the authorities, the Maternity Ward was one area that benefited from the few nurses who stayed.