Junior Doctors Vow To Continue With Strike While Another Group Opposes Idea

Two groups of medical doctors have taken opposing sides in the current impasse between doctors in the public sector and the government over the payment of conversion differences and reduced pensions. While the Junior Doctors Association (JDA) has vowed to continue with the campaign seeking to redress their concerns, even if their seniors are intimidated to call off their strike, the Association of Ghana Medical Doctors (AGMD) says its members are unable to heed the directive of the leadership of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) because it is a clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath. In separate statements signed by the Chairman of the JDA, Dr Titus Beyuo, and Drs Mawia Zakaria, Alex Brown and Thomas Anabah for the AGMD, the two groups laid out their opposing views to the current strike by the GMA. The JDA said junior doctors had observed that the National Labour Commission (NLC) was sabotaging efforts by the GMA at resolving the impasse on conversion differences and reduced pensions of doctors by resorting to the courts, while not solving the issues. “We the junior doctors would like to state emphatically that we shall not be intimidated and that even if our leadership is compelled to call of this action, we shall resist and continue to fight until the issues of conversion differences and reduced pensions are resolved,” the JDA statement said. But the AGMD said by the Hippocratic Oath, medical doctors were never to imperil lives as a result of their actions. “It is unfortunate that the leaders of the GMA are not putting the plight of Ghanaians above all considerations and note that lives lost cannot be gained after the government has addressed all the concerns of medical doctors,” it said. It, however, urged the government to adopt more persuasive measures to get doctors, who are members of the GMA, back to work, cautioning that actions and utterances that might worsen the situation ought to be minimised. Meanwhile, the GMA, in a statement issued yesterday, April 26, this year, said doctors were only waiting for a written commitment letter from the government to resume work fully. “It must be reiterated that doctors are waiting for only this written commitment letter from the government to resume work fully,” it said. “Doctors are neither demanding immediate payment nor one lump sum payment of the conversion difference. Nothing short of this commitment will make us go back to work,” the GMA said in a statement jointly signed by its President, Dr Kwabena Opoku-Adusei, and the General Secretary, Dr Frank Serebour. It said as an association, the GMA would jealously guard the salaries and pensions of doctors in the public sector, adding that any delay in the resolution of the issue and the subsequent resumption of work by the doctors should be laid at the doorstep of the government. It recalled that on April 22, 2013, doctors stepped up the withdrawal of their services, including emergency services, which led to numerous appeals from well-meaning Ghanaians to both the GMA and the government to expedite negotiations leading to an agreement that would be acceptable to doctors. It said at a meeting held at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations on April 19, 2013, it was established that doctors were paid a conversion difference for several months upon their migration onto the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) but that was unilaterally suspended by the government and amounts that had already been paid were recovered. The meeting, it said, was then adjourned, with the understanding that the ministers of Employment and Health would seek the mandate for the restoration and refund of arrears of the conversion difference. The statement said at a related meeting on April 23, 2013 with the Health Minister, Ms Sherry Ayittey, she informed the GMA that the payment of the conversion difference to doctors was no more in contention and appealed to them to restore emergency services in the interim. “However, the GMA expressed the willingness to call off the strike in totality and resume work fully if the government commits itself to a signed document instructing the Controller and Accountant-General to restore the payment of the conversion difference and refund arrears with a payment schedule. It is worth noting that restoration of the conversion difference automatically corrects the reduced pensions,” it said. In another development, Zainabu Issah and Jack Simpson report that the Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA) has threatened to intensify its nationwide strike by withdrawing emergency services, the administration of drugs to psychiatric patients and anti-retroviral therapy to people living with HIV/AIDS, effective Monday, April 29, 2013. Speaking at an emergency news conference in Accra on Wednesday, the Spokesperson for GHOSPA, Mr Ernest Owusu-Aboagye, said the association took the decision to give backing to its demand on the government to address their concerns. Members of GHOSPA, on April 8, 2013, withdrew their services in support of their demand for the payment of their market premium arrears as negotiated with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC). They also demanded immediate compliance with the National Labour Commission (NLC) ruling on the pharmacists grade structure by the government and the FWSC. They further requested for an immediate adjustment of a market premium appropriate and commensurate with their job evaluation scores, as well as a payment plan for the conversion difference as the NLC had ordered.