Patients Stranded At OPDs, Doctors Overwhelmed
…As Physician Assistants Strike Bites, Anaesthetists To Follow
The ongoing strike action by members of the Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA) appears to have paralysed health service delivery at some facilities already, and taking a toll on patients, even before the association could withdraw emergency services today.
The Anchor’s monitoring of the situation has revealed that most patients are not aware of the strike action, leaving some Out Patients Departments (OPDs)heavily choked with the sick patients in long queues, hoping to be attended to by a doctor.
The development, the paper observed, is mounting pressure on medical officers and nurses who, at this moment, are handling all cases, including OPD, emergency and ward rounds, leaving them overwhelmed.
But in the case of other facilities which are solely manned by physician assistants (PAs)and where there are no doctors, such as the clinics, health centers and Community Health-Based Planning Services, otherwise called CHPS compounds, the patients were being turned away, except the emergency cases.
At the time of visit to some facilities within the Greater Accra Region yesterday, The Anchor observed that many sick patients were still hanging around, hoping to be attended to by the striking physician assistants.
Particularly, at the public health facilities in areas, like Ga South, Ga West, Ayawaso North, Ledzokuku, Ga East and Madina, the paper visited, many patients, who had no emergency cases, were disappointed as those who could not stay in the long queue to see one or two doctors on duty were seen going back home, looking very sad.
Interestingly, this paper has gathered that, in spite of the collective decision taken by leadership of the GPAA, a few of their members are not adhering to it, as they were seen betraying the cause.
At a particular general hospital visited, this paper spotted one of the very senior PAs busily attending to patients, but claimed it was emergency cases he was handling.
The group embarked on the strike action 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).
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.”
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.
Anaesthetists & Medical Lab Techs
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 specialists, 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 perspective 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 to address our concerns. Failure to honor this request will lead to a strike action without any further notice.”
The letter, under the signature of the president and the 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 begun 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 distort 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.