Pharmacists must put public interest first

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

From where we sit, it appears that the country has given up on the strike by the members of the Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA).

The members embarked on their action on April 8, 2013 to press home their demand for the payment of their salary arrears and market premium.

We may not be privy to behind-the-scenes boardroom negotiations going on between the government and the pharmacists, except that we know urgent steps were taken to end industrial actions by other professional groups.

Pharmacists play a very critical role in effective healthcare delivery and without their contribution accessing health care will be fruitless. Various groups such as the National Labour Commission (NLC), the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and leaders of our society have pleaded with the pharmacists to rescind their decision and resume work.

Unfortunately, the appeals appear to have fallen on deaf ears, as the pharmacists are more concerned about their conditions of service than the health needs of the people. This is not to say that they are insensitive; far from that. But for more than a month now they have stayed away from the hospitals, not concerned  about their patients, including those on regular prescription.

It is refreshing, however, to note that the pharmacists have now decided that although they have withdrawn their services, they will serve people living with HIV and AIDS and psychiatric patients.

In its statement on the action, GHOSPA called on its members to be resolute and steadfast, saying, “We are pursuing our legitimate and just due as reflected in the job evaluation exercises carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers in October 2010. Ghanaians should not blame us for our misfortune but rather put the blame on the doorstep of the FWSC boss, Mr George Smith-Graham.”

There have been issues with some aspects of compensation payment to public sector workers following the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP), in spite of efforts by the government to iron out the challenges.

Now, the Ministry of Health has set up a four-member committee to provide oversight responsibility for resolving the strike by members of GHOSPA.

The Daily Graphic is of the view that the stakeholders are not managing industrial relations the way it ought to be managed to promote productivity in the health service and other sectors.

While the parties are at each other’s throat fighting for their rights, the ordinary people who cannot afford their medication outside the government hospitals endure the pain of illness.

The Daily Graphic has drawn attention to the harm that prolonged strikes are doing to our economy and the well-being of the people. In the so-called advanced economies, workers do not turn their backs on their work for many days because they know the implications of that action.

The Daily Graphic does not think it is right to legislate against industrial actions, even for workers in essential services.

However, we recommend that all workers respect the grievance procedures outlined in the labour laws in order to avoid turbulence on the labour scene.

The Daily Graphic calls on pharmacists and the Ministry of Health to find amicable solutions to the challenges that have rendered all government and hospital pharmacies closed for more than one month.

It dents the leadership credentials of the people charged with the mandate to manage salary administration in the country, as well as paints the pharmacists as placing their welfare above the public good.

The tango must end now.