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Deal with health sector strikes

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

A political pressure group, the Transparency and Accountability Forum, has appealed to the government to, as a matter of urgency, deal decisively with the strikes by doctors and pharmacists.

“Why can’t the government commit itself to a simple letter or plan of payment of the doctors’ conversion differences and reduce pension to save the lives of people, instead of this show of power?” it asked.

Addressing a news conference in Accra Thursday, Mr Saaka Salia, the Spokesperson for the forum, described the National Labour Commission’s (NLC’s) decision to go to court over the doctors’ strike as a waste of time and selective application of the law.

He said the resort to Cuban doctors could not be the solution to the current strike by doctors, adding that engaging external medical assistance was very expensive.

On Tuesday, April 30, the government signed a medical service and educational agreement with the Cuban Government at a ceremony in Accra.

Under the agreement, 350 Cuban doctors arrived in the country to support healthcare delivery.

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But Mr Salia said although Cuban doctors had been coming to assist in healthcare delivery in the country, the engagement of 350 new Cuban doctors would be expensive in the long run because they would need interpreters, accommodation and transportation.

He claimed that the amount that would be spent on the Cuban doctors could be used to solve the problems of the local doctors permanently.

He criticised the NLC for wasting precious time with its threat to resort to the law court, instead of dealing with the doctors’ issues within three days, as stipulated by the law regarding essential services, contending that the commission was dragging issues.

He recounted the countless number of meetings that had been held between the doctors and the government which had all ended on the rocks and noted that that had been so because the government, for an inexplicable reason, was not committed to solving the problems of doctors and pharmacists.

He said surprisingly when the pressure group served notice that it wanted to embark on a series of peaceful demonstrations to protest against the manner in which the government was dealing with the issue, the Police Administration declared that it would not be able to provide protection for the demonstrators because of other pressing engagements.

Mr Salia said the police had given a “flimsy and untenable excuse of the fact that the Supreme Court has consumed all its men, ostensibly to prevent us from embarking on the demonstration”.

According to him, the police action was meant to trample on the rights and freedoms of ordinary Ghanaians to assemble, as prescribed by the 1992 Constitution.

He contended that that development had the tendency to create security problems.

On April 30, 2013, the Police Service banned demonstrations until further notice, with the explanation that it had put personnel on stand-by for the weekend and holiday sittings of the Supreme

Court which is hearing the election petition.

The Police Administration, therefore, directed the public to suspend any mass activity that would require protection from the police, since that could not be assured.

Story: Donald Ato Dapatem