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Doctors Are Violating the Public Trust


Ghanaian doctors are arguably the darlings of society. They provide care and comfort to millions; dedicated and committed, they are the unsung heroes of our society laboring anonymously in urban hospitals and far-flung rural clinics. A grateful society holds them in high esteem.  It is therefore not a stretch to assert without any equivocation that doctors are the most privileged and pampered group of professionals in Ghana.

But as the strike they embarked on several weeks ago drags on without any solution in sight, their hard-earned reputation is crumbling like a pack of cards.  I have no qualms about the doctors resorting to this line of action to highlight their grievances and seek concessions from a government that they perceive as unresponsive to their demands and uninterested in their plight.  

A labor strike is well within the rights—-constitutionally protected, of course—- of aggrieved workers, and is one of the many tools available to them to register their disgust and disapproval at perceived managerial intransigence.  Strikes, to all intents and purposes, are firewalls against managerial tyranny.

Taken to their logical conclusions, strikes in and of themselves are deal-makers; they compel management to the bargaining table, prod it to take an unjaundiced and critical look at workers’ complaints and provide negotiated solutions.  

That said, I submit that the strike is a huge miscalculation on the part of the Ghana Medical Association who erroneously hedged that the government of John Mahama will cave in after a week of devastating walk-outs that could potentially endanger the lives of thousands of patients in hospitals across the nation.  

But alas, to the dismay of the doctors and their chief enabler, the GMA, the Mahama government has firmly stood its grounds and there are no signs that the government is prepared to offer anything it hasn’t already offered.  It is an unfortunate turn of events.

In the interim, the strike raises a lot of questions hitherto not asked of our doctors. Are they well trained and competent? Stories abound of botched surgeries and operations that left patients either dead or in worse shape than before. Most of these went unreported or underreported, but it is common knowledge that many patients have suffered catastrophes at the hands of incompetent doctors.  

The longer the strike continues, the harder it will be for the doctors to retain the trust of the population. And ultimately when it is all said and done, the reputational damage to the GMA and its members will be massive and irreversible.

There are many who view doctors suspiciously as a group of professionals who harbor no reservations about jettisoning their Hippocratic Oath, professional ethics, hanging their white coats and stethoscopes and taking to the streets to extract extra concessions from a government that is clearly reeling from an economic malaise.

Additionally, many others paint the striking doctors variously as arrogant, unyielding, petulant and supremely oblivious to the plight of ordinary Ghanaians who earn substantially less and have to contend with economic and financial problems of varying degrees.

And they point to the outcry that greeted the government’s announcement that it will bring in Cuban doctors to replace the striking physicians as hypocrisy at its nadir. If Ghanaian doctors won’t treat their own, why should they be throwing temper tantrums when others are brought in to do just that, they ask? Now, one has to wonder if the Ghanaian doctors really want to see our hospitals and clinics operate without healthcare providers.

A prolonged strike will eventually do irreparable damage to the reputation of the doctors.  Above everything else, though, continued work stoppage invariably hurts thousands of patients who have no representation at all.

Common sense suggests that doctors will be better served going back to work and doing what is expected of them; providing comfort and care to the sick and the infirm. Ghanaians will stand by them and prod the government into meeting their demands.




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