Doctors live on GH₵2 a day – the over-told story of 91 unpaid doctors

doctorsBy the end of July 2015, 91 junior doctors would have worked for eleven months without pay, a period during which some may have been forced to live on GH₵2 a day.

Prisoners in Ghana live on GH₵1.50. The huge difference of course, is that these doctors have committed no crime.

According to a spokesperson for the “mentally fatigued” doctors, Nana Kissi Atefah who works with the Cape Coast government hospital, their crime could be that, they love the nation.

“What is more patriotic than House Officers who have paid exorbitant fees through medical schools, who have sat and  burnt the midnight oil on several occasions, come out and for 11 months work without a single penny in our accounts?” his frustration was self-evident during the entire interview on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Wednesday.

Nana Kissi Atefah agonized about their misplaced confidence in public officials at the Controller and Accountant -General’s Department, Ministries of Health and Finance who told them to wait as far back as July 2014.

“They kept playing the waiting, waiting game and we kept falling for it,” he said.

Not anymore, he said and stated that come the end of July, the 91 doctors scattered across the country will be descending on the capital, Accra, where, in the offices of the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department, each doctor will present every document or certificate required for their salaries to be processed.

“We are gathering every single document we have from our birth certificate, BECE certificate, the only thing we cannot provide yet is our death certificate”, Nana Atefah indicated.

The doctor gave the breakdown of the 91 unpaid trainees as follows: 30 House Officers are stationed with the 37 Military Hospital, 23 are with the Cape Coast government hospital, 7 more at Tema Government hospital, 11 with the  Brong Ahafo government hospital, 4 each with the Volta regional hospital and Police Hospital and one each with LEKMA and Holy Family Hospitals.

He believes one of the reasons they have not been paid is that they have not put sufficient pressure on the authorities partly because they are scattered across the country.

Nana Kissi Atefah explained that 94 House Officers stationed at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in the Ashanti region were paid because by their sheer numbers, the net effect of laying down their tools was huge.

But for his colleagues, a hospital may not suffer greatly if some 7 doctors embark on a strike, he argued.

File Photo: Doctors in Africa have often been battling governments for their conditions of service

He explained how they have been surviving these past months. Using the Capae Coast Government Hospital as an example, Nana Kissi Atefah revealed that management of the hospital give the doctors an allowance of GH₵350 if the trainee lives in accommodation provided by the hospital and enjoys free utilities.

Otherwise, you are paid GH₵500 to pay for accommodation, utilities, feeding and accommodation, the CEO of the hospital Dr. Asare confirmed.

Dr Asare said these allowances will not be deducted from the doctors’ salaries when they are eventually paid.

Dr. Asare told a story of how systemic the problem has been, revealing that in 1990, he worked 10 months without pay.

He said the details of would-be doctors are collected for processing by government agencies two months before graduation.

But it could take as much as a year to finally get paid, he explained, adding he was on his way to Accra to make a case for the payment of the junior doctors. This is his second trip in two years since his hospital began receiving house officers posted by the Medical and Dental Council, he indicated.

According to Nana Kissi Atefah, his colleagues appreciate the sacrifices the Cape Coast Hospital put in. He said they are aware that at the heart of the challenge is the broken promises given them by government.

Nonetheless, they have requested for an increase in the allowance because it is “meagre”.

Nana Kissi noted that averagely, his colleagues living on GHC₵500 are left with GH₵ 200 after deducting accommodation and utilities and transport.

With GH₵200, ”even if we buy Hausa Koko in the morning and Hausa Koko in the evening can we survive?”, he questioned.

His colleagues at 37 Military Hospital are even worse off, he noted. They are paid GH₵150 and fed twice a day by the management of the hospital.

“We have passed our elastic limit. There is no point of return. We have to be paid by the end of this month as promised”, Dr. Nana Kissi Atefah stressed the resolution of 91 unpaid doctors.