The move forms part of measures to mitigate the effect of the ongoing strike by members of the Ghana Medial Association (GMA).
“Government would continue the process of bringing in 177 Cuban doctors to augment the efforts of government to protect life and restore normalcy in the health sector,” the Minister of Health, Alex Segbefia, said at a news briefing yesterday.
Mr Segbefia explained that the country has a long-standing arrangement with Cuba and other countries whereby doctors from those countries are brought in every year to augment the number of doctors in Ghana, as far as healthcare delivery is concerned.
Since the strike commenced, ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) communicators and other leading members of the party have been preparing the minds of the public to the possible arrival of Cuban doctors; and have continuously called the bluff of Ghana’s public sector medical professionals.
In a cynical fashion, the NDC propagandists persistently urged the government to sack the doctors and bring in their Cuban counterparts but the doctors equally called their bluff and said they were even prepared to resign en bloc if their demands were not met.
Immediate-past National Women’s Organiser of the NDC, Anita De Soso, recently urged the government to sack the striking doctors and bring some from Cuba.
“We should train more people in Cuba and bring them home. In the interim, we should bring in Cuban doctors,” she said, adding, “We have to also pay serious attention to traditional medicine because if we do not develop that area things will go bad for us as a country.”
The government has finally acceded to the request of its propagandists with the announcement of the impending arrival of Cuban doctors, even at a time some Ghanaian medical students who have undergone training in Cuba have reportedly not been able to return home because government is yet to release money to facilitate their return.
Mr Segbefia said government was working on the processes for them to return to the country.
The minister has in the interim directed heads of health institutions in the country to ensure the full range of healthcare service starting today.
“I have directed that heads of facilities should ensure that their facilities resume the provision of full range of health services by Wednesday, 19 August, 2015,” he revealed.
The health minister further added, “Effective Thursday, 20th August, 2015, all members of GMA who have not reported and assumed full duty shall be considered as being on strike and in clear breach of the Labour Act.”
He also directed the heads of health facilities to monitor and provide weekly updates on which health workers are at post to the ministry’s office.
Mr Segbefia said the number one priority of government in the current health situation is to ensure that the people of Ghana are able to receive healthcare.
In this regard, the minister said, government had not only presented assorted medical supplies, but also posted additional nurses and midwives to the Police and 37 Military Hospitals to assist their colleagues to provide adequate and proper healthcare.
Mr Segbefia said the GMA strike is illegal and against all laid down negotiation principles and that the government could not negotiate with the doctors whilst they are still on the illegal strike.
He said government recognises the right of workers to negotiate for better conditions of service. However, appeals to the humanitarian, legal and ethical instincts of the doctors to call off the strike had fallen on deaf ears.
“Without prejudice to the right of GMA to negotiate for better conditions of service, government considers the impact of the strike action on the lives of Ghanaians as unacceptable,” he added.
Mr Segbefia again called on the GMA executives to call on members to return to work to pave the way for negotiations to resume.
The implication of the ongoing strike on the timely completion of housemanship by doctors includes delayed completion of their training for full registration as medical and dental practitioners.
He said government plans to reduce this effect by retaining the house officers at post while arrangements are made for their supervision and further placement.
“The Medical and Dental Council is being consulted to ensure that their training objectives are duly achieved without undue delays,” he added.
Meanwhile, government has listed about 25 quasi health facilities, 178 hospitals/clinics of the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), private healthcare providers and retired doctors across the country who are supporting in delivering healthcare in the country.
The hospitals include;
University of Ghana Hospital, Atomic Energy Commission Clinic, Airport Clinic, 37 Military Hospital, Police Hospital, VRA Hospitals, Bank of Ghana Clinic, GBC Clinic, SIC Clinics, Ghana Post Clinic, Cocoa Clinics, Ghana Commercial Bank Clinic and Graphic Clinic.
Others are University of Ghana Medical School Clinic, Kwame Nkrumah University Hospital, Cape Coast Hospital, University of Development Studies Clinic, Anglogold Ashanti Hospital, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority Hospital/Clinic, Valco Hospital, Ghana Bauxite Hospital, Bui Dam Clinic, Ghana Consolidated Diamond Clinic and SSNIT Hospitals.