Medical and Dental Council Stirs Doom For Health Sector

…As Anaesthetists, Lab Technicians Also Threaten Strike Action

Unless there is a last-minute intervention by the Ministry of Health, healthcare delivery across the country would seriously be disrupted in the coming days, following announcement by some critical service providers in the health sector to go on strike.

The strike action, which has already begun, by the Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA), has left some patients stranded at some health facilities across the country since yesterday.

The ongoing industrial action is being applied as the last resort to halt the proposed draft bill for amendment of part-two of the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act 2013 (Act 857), which is intended to suppress some health professionals.

The bill, which is currently in Parliament for consideration, is spearheaded by the Medical and Dental Council (MDC), through the ministry, and it is described by some as retrogressive.

But the latest groups threatening to join the strike action against the bill are the Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anaesthetists (GACRA) and the Medical Laboratory Professional Workers’ Union (MLPWU).

According to leaderships of the groups, they are totally against the move by the Medical and Dental Council, because they were not consulted for their inputs, even though if passed in its current form, the bill will greatly affect them negatively.

Anaesthetists are specialist, who are responsible for providing anaesthesia to patients for operations and procedures. In addition, the medical professionals have a range of practice which extends beyond anaesthesia for surgery to include pain management and intensive care.

The leadership of the Certified Registered Anaesthetists, for instance, in a letter dated July 17, 2023, intercepted by The Anchor, addressed to the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, requested a meeting to put issues into proper prospective within seven (7) days, failure to which strike may ensue. They also requested a copy of the proposed bill.

It said “Leadership of GACRA wish to humbly request for a meeting within seven days (7) to enable us address our concerns. Failure to honor this request will lead to a strike action without any further notice.”

The letter, under the signature of President and General Secretary James Nwinsagra and Frederick K. Kporxah, respectively, was copied to the Chairman, Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Executive Secretary, National Labour Commission, Executive Director, Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) and the CEO, Gamey and Gamey Group.

Despite indicating it has intercepted a copy of the bill, the group asked that “The Ministry should make available the proposed bill to GACRA to discuss with your office and to make the necessary inputs.”

The Certified Registered Anaesthetists, in their letter, recalled a previous one addressed to the minister’s office on July 9, 2023, on the subject matter, but was not responded to.

The Medical Laboratory Professional Workers’ Union, on its part, has also began serializing some communication into the public domain drawing the attention of the ministry. It warned that strike would be embarked upon so long as the ministry refuses to prevail on the council to halt the bill.

“More strike looms in the Health Sector if the Ministry of Health does not stop attempts by the Medical and Dental Council to subjugate other professionals in the Amendment Bill of Act 857, 2023,” it warned, contending that “What is good for the goose, is also good for the gander.”

The union said the move to add to the definition to distortion regulatory authority over the laboratory profession will not be tolerated

It pointed out that medical laboratory is an autonomous profession under Part One of the Act 857, 2013, and therefore any attempt to insert “laboratory” in the definition of “medicine” under Part Two of the same Act to blur regulatory authority over the laboratory profession will be fiercely resisted.

Meanwhile, the Ghana Physician Assistants Association last week, in the same vain, said it is vehemently opposed to the proposed bill too.

In the understanding of the association, the bill was only seeking to reduce their work to nothing because it “imposes medical doctors on us, frustrate efforts to grow and develop our profession.”

It also called for an urgent meeting with the various stakeholders to cancel the bill, or they will strike, beginning yesterday Monday, July 24.

“For these reasons, we strongly oppose the proposed amendments and call for an urgent meeting with the MDC, GHS and the Ministry of Health, to stop this attempt,” it said.

The association said passing the bill by the 8th Parliament will spell doom for members and total health service delivery system, especially in rural and poor communities will suffer.

“They are trying to reverse an established practice and make a bad situation worse. There already exists a supervisory model in the health system. A Physician Assistant does not have to call a supervising physician for directions before assessing a client, requesting for laboratory investigations, making a diagnosis and finally prescribing the required medicine (s) as treatment. If we need supervision, there are senior Physician Assistants who can supervise us,” it explained.

Additionally, the PAs noted, “The proposed amendment is also seeking to prevent us from signing medical forms, something which is already part of our work.”

The association, in a press statement issued on Wednesday July 19, 2023 and signed by President Peter Akudugu Ayamba and General Secretary Peter Eyram Kuenyefu, said aside from the bill not being in the interest of the association, the Medical and Dental Council (MD) did not also involve them.

The physician assistants served notice that from Monday July 24 to Wednesday 26, 2023, they will withdraw Out-Patient Department (OPD) services.

There will also be a withdrawal of emergency services from Thursday, July 27 to Monday 31, 2023 and then lastly on Tuesday August 1, 2023, they will intensify their actions by withdrawing all services, emergencies inclusive.


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