On Sunday, the 5th of April 2020, exactly 5minutes after 9.00pm, the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressed the nation for the 5th time on the state of COVI-19 in the country with respect to the implementation of restrictions and packages put in place by the government to mitigate the impact of the virus on the entire nation with more emphasis on the motivation of the gallant and dedicated health professionals who had and are still putting their lives at risk to contain and minimize the spread and impact of this deadly pandemic.
I personally congratulate the President, his able lieutenants and all other stakeholders both national and international for their foresight and fortitude in the fight against the pandemic.
It is worthy to note that the relief packages outlined by the government, inter alia; the income tax (PAYE) waiver for health staffs for three months, the insurance package for all health staffs that may have infections and disabilities consequent to their roles in fighting the pandemic and even in the unlikely event that they passed on are very laudable initiatives.
“All Ghanaians would be exempted from paying water bills for the next three months”. Another cup in the feathers of government.
There are several other packages including cushioning SMEs and also providing for the vulnerable within these trying times. What can be more fantastic than these measures?
It is gratifying also to note that, government is going to pay 50% extra monthly salary to “frontline health workers” as motivation in addition to the three months tax waivers. What remains the biggest issue that government perhaps failed to consider and properly addressed is the definition of the “frontline health worker” with regards to this corona virus saga.
The health sector in Ghana comprises State, Christian and Faith-Based, Quasi-government and Private health facilities. All these facilities consequent to coronavirus had constituted COVID-19 emergency response teams that are spending time around the clock to implement directives and measures by the MOH, GHS and the CHAG to combat the deadly pandemic. These teams which included Doctors, Nurses, Allied health staff and Health Administration and Support staff hardly rest and in some cases cannot even go home to see their families all in an attempt to contain the pandemic.
I am shocked to the bone for government communicators to come out defining frontline health workers as only those involved in the management of the 214 cases so far confirmed in the country. This classification of who qualifies as frontline health workers comes as a big surprise if not a clear discrimination and selective in nature, to put it bluntly.
To me as a citizen and not a spectator, as far as the fight of covid-19 is concerned, all health staffs are frontline health workers. Nothing less, nothing more.
From the security man who mans the entrance to the health facilities to the records staffs, the nurses, the doctors, the Administrators, the orderlies and the cleaners, storekeepers and procurement managers, mortuary men, Accountants and Health Information Officers including IT experts, drivers, caterers, laundry staffs, clinical engineers inter alia in our various health facilities across the length and breadth of Ghana are all frontline staffs.
To leave anyone of these cadres out simply because they have not attended to a particular covid-19 patient and classify them as “ backline health staff” so to speak is not only discriminatory but tantamount to lack of clear understanding of how the very elements of the health system inter-operate to achieve results.
Let me be clearer here that, any selective reward system by the government without carefully considering the entire continuum of cadres that constitute health delivery in this country in the fight against this pandemic would not only disaggregate the system but also demoralize health professionals that would be left out and the ramifications would be damming if not devastating.
It is important to note that should all other cadres decide to back out of this fight leaving it to state officials, their advisors, and the so-called frontline staff according to their definition, I beg to differ, the end result would be catastrophic, to say the least.
The Ghana Medical Association in their press release called on the government to as a matter of urgency withdraw their definition of frontline health staff in the fight against covid-19 and extend any such relief to all staff since within the health sector everyone’s input matters seriously in achieving the final output.
To say goodbye to readers, let me reechoed that in the provision of healthcare whether in an emergency situation or with regards to cold cases, the concept and philosophy of systems are what drives outputs.
Finally, let me congratulate the President and his team of experts for their response and intervention so far but without any fear of contradiction and equivocation also call on the government to as a matter of urgency reconsider its position on the selective nature of frontline health workers and as a matter of urgency and unconditionally include all health staffs as front liners before many of the dedicated ones begin to back out and act as “back liners” which consequence the state cannot afford to bear.
It is my considered view that the package should and can be calibrated to reflect how direct or indirect staffs are connected to the fight against covid-19. The current position of the government on this controversial 50% additional salary to selected health staff described as “front-liners” would create the biggest apathy ever within the health sector and the government if care is not taken would be the biggest price payer in the end.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.