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TTH management and staff smoke peace pipe: Tamale residents and patients emerged winners


Tamale residents, especially patients at the Tamale Teaching Hospital heaved a huge sigh of relief last week after reports emerged that management and staff have reached a compromise over the issue of outsourcing.

Now that the once combative factions have sorted our their differences and cooler heads have prevailed, everyone can look forward to an atmosphere of cooperation and goodwill.

Let’s give the issue some perspective by recounting events that precipitated the stalemate. Two weeks ago, management inexplicably decided that it was in the best interest of the hospital to outsource some lab work to a private entity, an outside contractor in clear violation of labor regulations.

This move, of course, ignited a firestorm and angered staff who threatened work stoppage if management implemented the decision.

Despite pleas from prominent local leaders, both sides stuck to their guns. Things stood still until last week when the ice was broken: the two groups finally talked and things have improved with a semblance of normalcy returning to the hospital.

Lets now examine what the truce has achieved. On the face of it, the agreement averted what could potentially have been a paralyzing and disruptive work stoppage, an event many of us viewed with apprehension.

It is absolutely important to see the truce in this context: There were no winners, no egos were bruised and there was no capitulation on either side. Instead, the winners are the citizens of Tamale and the patients at the hospital who could have been dealt a bad hand if the intended outsourcing and subsequent strike action had materialized.

What is more, the truce presented a unique opportunity for management and staff to heal the wounds that were opened and to close the fissures that were invariably created. It is now time for the groups to put the past behind them and look ahead to what the future may bring in terms of cooperation and working together to make the hospital a better facility for all of us.

Also confined to the scrapheap are the intense loathing/hatred, fear and distrust that marked the relations between management and staff during that tense period. Hopefully, the truce is the genesis of a new chapter in the relations.

Both groups can extract some important lessons from the brief standoff. For management, it is this uncomfortable truth: you cannot decide on a whim to foist a life-altering decision on your staff without consultation and feedback. It is poor managerial strategy and you cannot micromanage your way to financial stability.

We all agree that TTH ought to be made efficient to render it competitive with the best in the nation. However, that goal should not be attained on the backs of workers.

To trim the fat from the hospital’s budget, management should look at other sources, but outsourcing must not underpin these efforts. TTH management should take note: outsourcing is a malignant and devastating concept. It has been hugely discredited in countries where it has wrought destruction in terms of job losses in the millions. It is not a path cash strapped entities in developing countries where unemployment is in the stratosphere want to travel.

For the staff of TTH, it was the painful realization that outsourcing is the new normal in the world we live in. Industries strapped for cash and hoping to boost revenue revert to this strategy. Hospitals are no exception.

All the staff can do in the face of this reality is to prepare for its eventuality. Management may have compromised now, but if the hospital faces financial woes in the future, it won’t hesitate to revisit the issue one more time.

For now, however, let us all enjoy the period of calm that has returned to our Teaching hospital.





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