Letter to Jomo: Angry physicians, Nana’s truck and Dr Yang’s machine

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Some people have quite a way with words, Jomo. The other day, I heard an Obroni pastor say there is no red more crimson than the scarlet of our sins. Meaning? Red, crimson and scarlet are all red in order of magnitude of shade. How I wish I could take the word intrigue through the same synonymous paces, for that is what is threatening to kill our republic!

Everyday, something incredibly weird or downright wacky makes and stays with the lead news headlines for days on end. Nothing however, quite beats what has gone here in the past few weeks: The petitioners in the presidential election dispute for example, showed up at the Supreme Court this week with a bursting truckload of millions of documents made up of more than 400,000 documents and 15 duplicate copies of each of the original documents!

How the justices of the court are going to be able to mount a scaffold tall enough to enable them climb up to the top of the heap and begin evaluating the documents one after another right down to the bottom in a bid to determine which are worth considering as evidence, is the miracle most folks are doubtlessly waiting to see unfold.

Then there were the angry physicians: If bush meat hunters go on strike, they are unlikely to attract a stream of public condemnation.  All with a palate for the smoked cane rats need do in the event of a bush meat hunter’s strike, would be to go looking for the meat of some other forest rodent.

You cannot say the same in the case of physicians who have sworn an oath to dedicate themselves to bringing healing to the dying, the sick and the suffering. Unfortunately, it is a whole new world now, Jomo, and what does a medical doctor who swears the Hippocratic say when a crisis holds him up to his sacred oath never to willfully withhold medical care from the sick or let a patient die for lack of medical care?

Na oath man go chop, abi? That is what he says. Ghana Medical Association President, Dr. Kawbena Adusei, was heard saying of the Minister of Health, Sherry Ayittey on radio, that if the minister wanted patients to die, she would have her wish soon. The doctor said the minister had angered him and his colleagues with uncomplimentary comments she made about the doctors’ strike.

The worst time to speak is probably when you are angry. To bluntly state that you would willfully let someone die unless you are given money that, admittedly, is legitimately yours, must really take some trying! Talk about employing a wrong approach to fighting a just cause.

The current generation of the country’s medical officers, we must nonetheless  concede, is not the first to embark on strikes in blatant violation of their oath. Besides, they are in the good company of their medical cousins:  Pharmacists in public health facilities recently refused to dispense prescription pills and pharmaceutical concoctions for us to gulp down and recover from our illnesses.

Nor are they the only public sector professionals up in arms against the political administration. In recent weeks, school teachers, university lecturers, nurses, audit service personnel, judicial service workers etc have either embarked on strike or threatened to go on strike.

The payment of a colossal GH¢47 million to legislators as ex gratia awards at a time when nearly the entire public sector workforce was complaining so bitterly about poor wages and unpaid allowances and other emoluments made the striking workers even angrier and more determined to get a piece of the pie.

It is the height of immorality to pay one citizen who has served the nation for 40 years a pension of less than GH¢10,000 and pay another who has served for four years a comparatively super-colossal GH¢200,000. Yet you cannot blame the legislators for obtaining what the law says is theirs by right.

From the broadest perspective then, social and economic equity, gross injustice in the distribution of national resources and what might aptly be called criminal cheating of workers, has been firmly legitimised in the law to the singular advantage of those we have chosen to rule us.

Fighting these exploitative and distressingly unjust laws-or the system if you like, will not be easy, but in the interest of equity, we must begin somewhere. Any idea how we might proceed, Jomo?

Unfortunately for the striking workers, fiscal challenges during the last months of 2012 and hefty emoluments and other unspecified payments the government made in the first quarter of 2013, have led to very serious liquidity problems that make it impossible for central government to meet the demands of the doctors and other striking workers at a go.

It does not make sense to kill the dependants of someone who owes you money, as one crazed freak did over a GH¢300 debt near Kumasi recently: Striking labour may have no alternative than to relent somewhat in the precise nature of some of their demands. The government is offering a schedule of payments instead of the lump sum payments of accumulated allowances and other emoluments striking workers are demanding.

Thanks to the strikes, so many critical issues are escaping necessary public attention, Jomo: One moment, Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Emmanuel Buah,  is talking in serious tones about how amid the recurring energy crisis, it has become necessary to consider nuclear energy as an electrical power source option, since it is “cleaner and cheaper”.

The next moment, the man is conferring with visiting International Atomic Energy Agency Chief in charge of the Africa Region, Dr Dahzu Yang, on the subject and requesting IAEA support to develop nuclear energy in Ghana.

Then before anyone can say Kofi Jack, Dr Yang is explaining how technical support for Ghana to develop a nuclear energy programme will be readily forthcoming, since Ghana is a member of the IAEA. Do you follow?

Before anyone can say something predetermined must be afoot, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission Director, Professor Ben Nyarko, pulls a fat rabbit from a sack: All is already set to construct Ghana’s first nuclear plant at an undisclosed location and a bill on the development and operation of nuclear plant is in Parliament. What?!

If nuclear energy is safer and cheaper than most other sources of electricity as is being promulgated, why is it that less than 20 per cent of the world's energy comes from nuclear sources? Why is it that more than 80 per cent of nuclear plants worldwide are concentrated in the industrialised countries and not just anywhere?

Do you follow? Some scientists have warned that the benefits of nuclear energy are very small compared to the financial and physical harm that will be caused future generations by radioactive waste from nuclear energy.

While I would sleep under an electricity-generating panel without any anxiety, I would rather not go anywhere near a thousand-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant, no sir. At least 99 nuclear accidents have occurred worldwide to date. The worst of them was the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion in the Ukraine in April 1986.

There is a controversy over the exact figures to date but according to some estimates 534,000 died from the explosion , 3.5 million from radiation worldwide over the course of the next 15 years and roughly 7.6 million by January,  2000.

Mr Buah, Professor Nyarko and Dr Yang need to allay our more than justified fears before Parliament begins to debate this bill, don’t you think?

Article by George Sydney Abugri

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