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Ghana: Patients abandon gov’t hospitals as doctors strike deepens

Posted on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 13:25

Thousands of patients in Ghana have abandoned government healthcare facilities to seek treatment in private and designated military and police hospitals following the strike by doctors over poor conditions of service.

the labour law says that you can’t go on strike while you’re still negotiating

The country’s government health centres are virtually deserted leaving large numbers of empty seats in out-patients departments, while beds in the medical and emergency wards remain unoccupied with pockets of nurses idling.

“When people heard that the doctors are on strike they preferred to go to the private hospitals or the 37 Military Hospital and the police hospital where they can get treatment,” a nurse at the La General hospital, who preferred anonymity, told The Africa Report on Tuesday.

The situation has led to the overstretching of facilities at the only two referral hospitals – 37 Military and Police hospitals – and, doctors there have had to contend with an overwhelming numbers of patients, forcing authorities to erect tents to cope with the situation.

In a move to quell the situation, government recalled doctors on leave and urged the national disaster management organisation to assist.

But, the management of the country’s premier health facility, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, announced the closure of its out-patients department on Tuesday, though, it said it was still managing in-patient and emergency cases.

The government has described the strike as illegal and urged the doctors to go back while negotiations continue, a call many groups in the country have joined, but the doctors have refused to bow.

“If we don’t go by the law we’ll go back to the jungle, the labour law says that you can’t go on strike while you’re still negotiating,” President John Dramani Mahama counselled.

The labour and employment minister also reminded doctors and other striking public sector workers, in a statement, that their salaries could be frozen if their strike action persisted.

Ghana’s Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) states that a worker on strike, “may forfeit his or her remuneration in respect of the period during which he or she is engaged in the illegal strike”.

The Ghana Medical Association is due to meet on Friday to review the strike and the road map towards their planned mass resignations.

The Ghanaian doctors are asking the government to provide them with 40 per cent of their basic salary as accommodation allowance as, 70 to 100 litres of fuel per month and 50 per cent of basic salary per month as professional allowance.

They are also asking for clothing allowance of 30 per cent of their basic salary, a request many have described as outrageous, while the government says the country’s budget cannot afford it.

A Ghanaian doctor is said to be paid around $960 monthly.

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