President John Dramani Mahama
President John Dramani Mahama

The decision by the members of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) to keep off the job for another two weeks does not augur well for healthcare delivery in the country (See “Doctors Vote To Remain On Strike, Not To Resign” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 8/14/15).

President John Dramani Mahama
President John Dramani Mahama
But the apparent rapid narrowing of the margin between doctors in favor of continuing to hold out and those in favor of returning to work has grown quite significantly slim at 213 to 145, a difference of 65. What this means is that it is a statistical toss-up, with roughly half of the GMA membership as eager to continue striking as is the other half of the membership that is impatient to return to work.

These results can be interpreted in two ways: on the one hand are doctors who feel confident about the righteousness of their cause, and are professionally established and secure enough not to worry about the pinch of the economic sanctions imposed on the GMA members by President John Dramani Mahama. And on the other hand are positioned members whose professional establishment in the industry may at best be tentative or tenuous, and who may likely have been adversely affected by the President’s decision to withhold the August salaries of these striking doctors.

What the foregoing means is that at all costs, the two parties would need to come to some form of amicable settlement within the next two weeks, if not well before then. My own prediction is that this standoff is likely to result in a mutually acceptable compromise of some sort by next week. Both the Flagstaff House and the GMA may be working hard towards both saving face and emerging from this protracted impasse with a mutually acceptable deal. It is quite normal for governments locked in battle with their employees to pretend to have retained the upper hand, even when it is crystal clear that they have conceded far more than they initially intended to. I strongly expect this to be the case here also.

Indeed, about the only way for President Mahama and his boys to emerge out of this impasse relatively unscathed, would be for the government to resort to the judicial system. But that is likely to be protracted, which is why Mr. Mahama has been very reluctant to do so. He also does not want to be perceived as a political weakling. But I am not sure whether that is a very constructive approach. At least it does not seem to be wise to me. Resorting to the courts would only inure to his long-term benefit, by eloquently demonstrating to the Ghanaian public that he deeply cares about the plight of the very poor and destitute.

I have said this before and hereby repeat the same; and it is the fact that the arrogant and presumptuous rhetoric of the Mahama cabinet appointees and hangers-on has not any remarkably helped in expeditiously resolving the impasse. It is also unlikely that the damage done to the smooth-running of our healthcare system could be repaired anytime soon, unless, of course, Mr. Mahama is willing to pump a lot of our oil revenue into our ailing healthcare system. Ironically, though, the President has recently gone on record as claiming to have invested more resources into the nation’s healthcare system than any of his predecessors.

I have not checked the record books, but one can almost be certain that Messrs. Kwame Nkrumah, for obvious reasons, and Ignatius Kutu Acheampong invested far more into our healthcare system than any of the other postcolonial Ghanaian leaders. I am also thinking that Prime Minister K. A. Busia comes in a close third, and this is primarily because he was also granted the shortest tenure of governance.

Mr. Mahama says that he is in the process of putting together the best codified conditions of service for the striking workers. We hope that he means every word of his sentence. We also intend to hold him to the same. He has also said that his “government cannot negotiate under duress,” by which pronouncement he obviously means that as long as the GMA stays on strike, there is nothing doing, as it were. Which immediately and effectively puts the striking GMA doctors on the ride side of the truth, when they bitterly complain that government operatives do not appear to be negotiating with their leaders and representatives in good faith. For instance, leaking the grievances and the demands of the striking doctors was clear evidence of not negotiating in good faith, on the part of the government.

At any rate, nobody ought to be tempted to take delight in the bruising battle between President Mahama and the Ghana Medical Association. It could happen under the watch of any government, not the least the leaders of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), who are feverishly gunning for the Flagstaff House, come January 2017. Still, I wish that President Mahama could be thoughtful enough to put an S-O-S through to former President John Agyekum-Kufuor. Now, thinking about matters more soberly, Mr. Kufuor comes to mind as one leader who appears to have done more towards the improvement of our healthcare system than any other Ghanaian leaders in the last 30 years.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
E-mail: [email protected]

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