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20.04.2020 Opinion

COVID 19 Frontliner Incentive: A Timely Measure; An Inappropriate System

By Edmund Amo Gyan
COVID 19 Frontliner Incentive: A Timely Measure; An Inappropriate System
LISTEN APR 20, 2020

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. In this fight against the seemingly unending novel Coronavirus disease otherwise known as COVID-19, our only hope is in the healthcare system we have. In this fight, it remains a fight between our health system (both private and public) and the unseen enemy (SARS-CoV-2). We either win together or lose together.

With the announcement of several packages for the health service personnel came glad tidings and rejoicing as the announcement was received gladly by all because it was “they deserve it”. Yet, there seems to be an unending debate on who the frontline health worker is.

The Ghana Registered Nurses Association insists, as reported by citinewsroom.com, that every health worker is exposed and must benefit from the stimulus package as announced by the government reported by

Well a debate on this within the health sector is unnecessary, a definition to explain who the front liner is and has always been unnecessary. Everyone is a “front liner”, from the man who sits at the record table to the nurse at the ward who processes the discharge of the patient, everyone is a front liner. In terms of risks, the nurse at the emergency unit or the OPD desk who is exposed to the patient on first appearance will not necessarily have the protective gown to receive the man who will be diagnosed later as a Covid-19 patient.

The one who encounters the patient once without full protection and the one who encounters for ten days with full protection, who faces higher risks in this scenario? Well, this argument wouldn’t have been necessary if the system had already been one that motivates the health worker to perform that task he/ she has been trained and subsequently taken an oath to do. It is no argument that workers of the health system in Ghana are highly underpaid. Hence, to create a short-lived motivation, we are forced to bring policies that should have even been the regular.

What is the extra 50% allowance serving? Is it an overtime allowance, a risk allowance or a general motivation to do that which they have agreed to do from the beginning? I am of the view that it is a response to the guilt of policymakers to somehow silence the voice of rebuke that calls them to acknowledge that they have done very little in regards to paying them for what they are worth.

The health worker faces risk every day. From the spill of infected blood to the gushing of vomit from the patient, the worker is at risk. Not to talk of the incidence of violence that is encountered on daily basis when dealing with some psychiatric patients or aggressive relatives of patients. These risks seem to not count because they aren’t “pandemics”.

Is the government only recognizing the work of the health worker in this pandemic? The President of the Ghana Medical Association, Dr. Frank Ankobea, in response to the announcement of the incentive package in a meeting with the President at the Jubilee House said “When you are working and the President of the nation recognizes the work that you are doing, it is very, very encouraging” as reported by the official website of The Presidency. I dare say, before this pandemic, they never felt appreciated and after these three months, they will continue to feel underappreciated.

Dear policy maker, if this is not a response to the voice of rebuke that rings on daily basis, then these packages are not necessary. After all, you don’t pay the soldier extra when he is sent to ensure peace when there is war between people of Nkonya and Alavanyo, neither do you give him a tax holiday because he is simply doing his work. If it is not a response to that unending voice of rebuke, then pay every health worker that allowance and make it permanent. Together, this crisis should cause us to review the conditions of service meted out to health workers in the health system of Ghana.

For the health worker, do not rejoice over the discriminatory 50% extra allowance because you have always deserved it. If they are now realizing it, then they should make it permanent. It is time they allow you do what you do best “fight wars and save lives”. In the past they were possibly “not aware” that you were confronted with dangers in your field of duty. This pandemic is only a realization, do not downplay the daily dangers you face on a daily basis because, in reality, they are not less dangerous as compared to the Covid-19 pandemic. You deserve a review of your conditions of service just “coronavirus induced incentives” is not enough.

A tax holiday for this personnel is enough to say “thank you” in this fight. Instead, to really show appreciation is to reevaluate the conditions of service for all personnel in the health sector. First, everyone who works at the sector must be insured together with their families. An insurance that caters for all work-related accidents is a good step. Next, a review of salary under the Single Spine Salary Structure to permanently reflect that “appreciation” for work done is more appropriate in showing our appreciation to the health worker. To really communicate our support for workers in the health system, we must put in place permanent but not temporal incentives.

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