Ghanaian doctors have embarked on an indefinite strike after saying the government has failed to give them any condition of service despite repeated promises from the administration.
The doctors suspended their services after demanding a formal document containing their conditions of service, which they said the government has yet to meet. They have also threatened to resign enmasse if their demands are not met.
Dr. Justice Yankson, the deputy General Secretary of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), says the doctors have withdrawn emergency services in government hospitals across the country after negotiations with officials of the administration faltered.
He says the GMA has repeatedly warned successive governments about their non-existing conditions of service for the last 20 years.
Condition of service demands
Yankson says at a meeting nine months ago, doctors gave the administration eight months to decide on when to give them a formal document containing their condition of service. He said the government asked for more time, but has yet to meet doctor demands.
“It’s surprising to most people that professional doctors who work for the government of Ghana do not have any conditions of service. It is absurd that that is the situation, said Yankson. “We have gotten to a place where the doctors are saying enough is enough, and that is the main reason why this impasse is on.”
Critics have questioned the timing of the strike and have accused the GMA leadership of being politically motivated to make the government unpopular ahead of next year’s general election. They contend that the prevailing weak economic conditions are not conducive enough to support their demands in talks with the government.
Yankson disagrees, saying doctors are not being treated as essential workers as the Ghana Labor act requires. He says the doctors warned last year that they are willing to resign if their demands are not met.
“Even though people talk about difficult times for Ghana, other public sector agencies within Ghana are enjoying their conditions of service but when it comes to the doctor, everybody says the situation is not good so you can’t have it and we cannot continue this way,” said Yankson.
“We believe that any patient we admitted before the onset of this action, we owe that patient a duty of care. The patient was sent to the ward under our management protocol …So, for now, what we are doing is to make sure that we attend to all the in-patients that we have taken in and once we are able to discharge them based on whatever ailment they have, if the situation remains as it is, that is an option on the table for us,” said Yankson.
Some Ghanaian labor experts have condemned the doctors’ strike, describing it as illegal. They argue that it is unlawful to blackmail or “point a gun” at the head of the government to negotiate. Yankson says the assessment is inaccurate.
“We disagree with such people …Unfortunately, the very people who claim to be labor experts are the very people who are also not advising the powers that be properly and have created this problems,” said Yankson.