Medical doctors, like most public servants in Ghana, go on strike. That much is not new. They go to demand ‘better working conditions,’ which is another way of saying, ‘we need more money!’ That is also not new.
If by ‘better working conditions,’ our doctors insisted on better hospitals, or even encouraged the government to build more clinics in the country to ease the flux of patients from rural areas to the few major hospitals in the cities, then perhaps their decision to force the hand of government could be seen in a different light.
Still, striking, that is, leaving our grandmothers and children in their beds to die in the name of ‘demanding better working conditions’ seems to be overly immature.
That is why the recent demonstration of our medical doctors educated and then employed by the state of Ghana does not surprise any Ghanaian, nor any grandmother who has sacrificed, paid and contributed towards their education.
But this strike is a tad different.
It is made worse by Ghana’s decision to continue borrowing money from the International Monetary Fund, the IMF – a western machination for bill collection in Africa – which has forced the hand of the Ghanaian government to cut back on her communal healthcare.
Relying on data from 2010, there were some 15 physicians and 93 nurses per 100,000 Ghanaians. Over 5 percent of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was spent on healthcare and almost all Ghanaian citizens (a whopping 98 percent of the population) have access to primary health care.
This Ghanaian model is not new.
Since the time of our ancient ancestors in Kemet, some 3000 years before Jesus was conceived in Egypt, traditionally, village healers and clerics were the basis of Africa’s healthcare systems. They ranged from primary care givers, offering herbal remedies, to specialists offering the most ready treatment of illnesses.
The first principles of surgery – heart surgery, cesarean, brain surgery – were all developed in Africa. In fact, the father of modern medicine, Imhotep, a polymath who served under the Third Dynasty under King Djoser as chancellor to the Pharaoh and high priest of the Sun God Ra at Heliopolis, was the first to have written and compiled the first and the most detailed medical treatise the world has ever known.
He, his predecessors and our ancestors who followed him, like Komfo Anokye of Asante, believed in communal healthcare. Imhotep and his Medical Association of Priests and Healers back then in Africa laid the foundation for the traditional healthcare system we have enjoyed since 1700 BC all across Africa.
But the IMF, like Christian missionaries to the Gold Coast in the 19th century, are intent on eroding, by hook or crook, this very foundation. That is also not new!
The IMF’s terms and conditions have always been clear – give African states a financial problem and let them run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to solve a puzzle that should not have been there in the first place. The Ghana government is trying to cut a large budget deficit in order to stick to the terms of a $918 million aid programme from the IMF.
By cutting back on healthcare, the IMF insists that Ghana turn back the hand of time on our ancestors and devolve towards the uncivilized – leave our grandmothers and our grandchildren in their beds while they die without care.
Conditions at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, the 37 Military Hospital, the Police Hospital, all of which are in Accra and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, are nothing to be proud of. But they have been part of and have played an important role in Ghana’s comprehensive healthcare tradition.
Obviously, working conditions in these hospitals and all other Ghanaian healthcare centers must improve befitting the model laid down by our ancestors.
And our medical doctors in Ghana, in the spirit of fairness, have a right to demand from the government, better conditions. This is also in the spirit of the ancient traditions of our healers in Africa – that is, call for an overhaul of a dilapidated system. It is their right.
But a strike, again and again? Come on.
We know Ghana’s healthcare system is not perfect, even broken, though some experts around the world – the likes of Bill Gates – seem to think that Ghana’s universal health care system is one of the most successful healthcare systems, bar Rwanda’s, in the world.
We cannot be sure why these experts might be interested in Ghana’s healthcare tradition. But most Ghanaians know full well that the current state of our healthcare is far from a comprehensive, let alone, a universal one.
Let us not talk about the quality.
But, could Ghanaian medical doctors be justified by refusing to see or admit their grandmothers who are sick and tired of the nonsense that has become of Africa in the past two centuries and counting?
No, not ever!
They want ‘better pay and conditions,’ but at what costs?
Of course, a lasting solution to these strikes is a case in point. And this is where the problem is more stark.
Because, more serious is a nation whose government lacks any direction. Mr John Mahama is as clueless as a bat – he cannot seem to find his way south of his own government. We cannot expect Mr John to uphold and enforce the ethos of Africa’s tradition in healthcare.
‘These are modern times,’ he says. Modern?
Ghana exports cocoa, oil, diamonds and gold. That is modern too!
This begs the question: why then is Ghana, with such resources, under a three-year aid program with the IMF to ‘stabilize’ her economy? Why is Ghana dogged by slowing growth, growing debt and a stubbornly high budget deficit?
Or is it perhaps due to an enormous public wage bill – government officials munching on Ghana’s hard earned currency?
Public sector wages for top government workers alone swallow up to 45 percent of tax revenues. And that is supposedly down from a stubborn 60 percent three years ago. Add to this, Ghana is grappling with prolonged electricity outages – popularly called Dum-Sor – which have more than crippled private industries.
There is much left to be desired in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. And the anger is justified.
But our anger needs direction. How did Ghana come to produce incompetent leaders? Leaders without balls, who don’t read, or study; leaders who are late for work; leaders who have no clue and above all, leaders who are so stupid you cannot glean any comprehension of African history and tradition from their brains – leaders without course, for short.
But our medical doctors, amidst all the brouhaha, need to understand the import of their actions within the context of this ancient African institution they have inherited.
Our grandparents and our mothers are the ones who do the sacrificing – they contribute more than 65 percent towards Ghana’s GDP – and they need not be the ones suffering too. That is terribly unfair. They need medical help and by God you are going to go back and give them the best care you can.
You come from a long and ancient African tradition. You are heirs of Imhotep. You are healers and by God you should be proud. Don’t let Mr John and the stupidity of his ‘modernity’ deter you from practicing in the ancient African institution you inherit.
This is your time. This is your space. Own it and be the healers that you are.
‘Don’t wait for your peers; don’t wait for an audience; do not wait for a sign in the sky.
Let The Ancestors be your motivation. Let them be your shield. Then you will stand in the hall of The Gods; And the world will know your name; for you will burn with the stars of the night.
Do it for yourself; do it for our pride; do it for our people; do it, in continuous remembrance of the ancient traditions you have inherited!’ ~ Imhotep.