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Government and Doctors Smoke Peace Pipe


The loud sound you just heard is a national collective sigh of relief by worried Ghanaians.  The three- week long strike by the Ghana Medical Association is mercifully over. A truce, an agreement of sorts, was apparently reached between the once bitterly opposed groups, government and doctors.

Cooler heads prevailed and reason and deliberate thought were given priority. For this, Ghanaians are immensely grateful. During the strike and failed negotiations, both sides were roundly vilified and justifiably so for the impasse. The government was chastised for its intransigence and the GMA sternly rebuked for its overt insensitivity.

Some critics went as far to accuse the doctors of abandoning their Hippocratic Oath and leaving patients to their fate. One thing that came out of the strike was its exposure of the fragile relationship between government and public servants, one characterized by bellicose rhetoric from both sides. It should be acknowledged by all that government and the GMA had legitimate concerns. The national economy is performing poorly and government as a result is hard-pressed for cash to meet its financial commitments.

Embarking on a strike is not an easy undertaking. It should be pointed out the doctors acted within their constitutionally guaranteed rights. They withheld services to the Ghanaian public to highlight poor working conditions and to compel government to address these grievances. I don’t think it is appropriate to begrudge doctors for their actions.

We should remember that doctors are dedicated civil servants who could very easily have chosen to leave the shores of Ghana for wealth and riches overseas where their expertise and services are in great demand by an aging western population. However strikes have unintended consequences. For one thing, the image of doctors as caring and compassionate takes a pounding and the trust and confidence reposed in them by the general public fizzles.

For another and more importantly, it is the public that bears the brunt of a strike and thus suffers needlessly. Poor patients who cannot afford expensive private health care pay with their lives. Nonetheless, now that the dust has settled, and the doctors are back to work, both sides have a moral obligation to abide by the terms of whatever agreement is eventually forged by the two.

Government and doctors ought to put the health concerns of Ghanaians above their narrow, financial and parochial interests.  To this end, government must, without fail, address the lingering concerns of doctors and doctors on their part, should toil hard and diligently to regain the trust and confidence of Ghanaians.

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