Look at them! Our grandmothers are dying on their poor dilapidated beds, but look, look at these privileged bastards! They are on strike, because they want more money. Abey!

In a front page story published in the 21st October, 2011 edition of the Daily Graphic, Ghana, the current salaries of Ghanaian Senior Medical Officers under the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) is anywhere between GH¢ 3,469.53 ($1795.22) and GH¢ 3,970.44 (2054.41) a month. That is about $22,000 annually.

These figures represent between 84% – 105% increments over a period of 5 years. The rise in paychecks came at the back of repeated strikes by Ghanaian doctors at the expense of the “sick and dying taxpayer,” lamented a senior government official at the time.

But why?

Many medical practitioners in Ghana would liken their paychecks to co-professionals in countries like the United States where doctors seem to be paid a whole lot more, and truly their take home imbursements are much smaller.

Across the Atlantic, The Annual Compensation Survey administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges representing all the 134 accredited U.S. medical schools and 400 teaching hospitals and health systems, which cover 125,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students and 106,000 resident physicians reveals that general practitioners in the United States earn up to $220,196 annually, and general surgeons get more than $383,333 per year.

Do Ghanaian doctors make enough money?

The answer lies in the pudding that is the United States. Lessons from the United States’ Health System which Ghanaian medical doctors like to covert is in fact a dishonest comparison of an inhumane health system to one that Nkrumah built to serve the country.

It takes on average $50,000 (tuition and board) a year to train a single physician in the United States. There are few financial aid programs for medical students and more than 94% of medical students in the United States foot the whole bill in loans with interest rates that range between 4 and 8 percent.

On the other hand, information by the New Statesman at the University of Ghana Medical School indicate that the cost of training a single doctor for a year in Ghana does not exceed GH¢5,000 ($2587), and that students would usually dish out the tuition and board fees of about GH¢1,000 ($517) a year.

Furthermore, as part of an age long program Ghana has with Cuba for training some of its physicians, the Ghana Ministry of Health disclosed that the cost of training a single Senior High School graduate in Cuba amounted to GH¢50,660.12 ($26,212.84) a year, translating into GH¢303,960 ($157,300.00) per head for a six-year period.

In general the taxpayer in Ghana pays over $15,000.00 to educate a medical doctor at home and about $160,000 in Cuba. While in the United States, the taxpayer pays zero dollars. The students are fully responsible for their $200,000 medical school loans, which they must repay with exorbitant interest.

In addition, students in the United States can only apply to medical school after an undergraduate education, which would usually cost another $200,000 in loans at a private university (the pre-med programs of choice amongst US high schoolers).

This brings the post medical school total debt of a United States physician to about $400,000, which they are required to repay with an average of 6% interest! This will require a medical doctor to pay $2,398 a month for a 30 year repayment plan (360 payments). In sum, a medical doctor owes the United States taxpayer and government $863,500 due in monthly payments.

Any further training needed to become a medical specialist is also an additional expense in loans that a medical doctor has to consider. A specialist trained in the United States is easily in a total debt of about one million dollars ($1,000,000) before the have performed their very first surgery!

The post medical school debt of a Ghanaian physician assuming they trained in Cuba is zero! That for a home trained physician is at most $3,000 for the entire six years. Then again that’s assuming they borrowed all the money to pay their part of their heavily subsidized education!

What do these numbers mean and why does a Ghanaian trained physician feel short changed in an economy that pays him $20,000 a year?

The Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of Ghana’s 2,479.5 PPP Dollars based on GDP versus the United States’ 41,889.57 PPP Dollars means that a Ghanaian medical doctor’s $20,000 a year salary translates into a whooping average of $337,000 annually in the United States.

PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States. GDP at purchaser’s prices is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

Compared to the United Sates Association of American Medical Colleges numbers on physician salaries, $220,196 per year, Ghanaian doctors are making quite simply a titan sum especially at the back of paying close to nothing for their education.

Essentially they are fat cows walking around with every trimming of the taxpayer at their behest. They are educated and paid by the taxpayer.

But, these Ghanaian doctors cannot seem to understand their responsibility to society – the social responsibility needed in this equation is missing. Some run away with the expensive education to the United States in the name of better working conditions at the sheer cost and detriment of the Ghanaian taxpayer!

Is that not unfair?

If there was any sense of morality left in these greedy medical doctors, they would apologize to the average Ghanaian for causing so much pain with their ungodly random strikes and disrespect for the hand that made them and continues to feed them.

Perhaps it is time for medical students to pay in full for their education. The taxpayer will be happy to loan them the money with 6% interest. Only then can they ask the government for higher and higher salaries.

Only then! But as it stands, they are greedy, inglorious and ungrateful.


  1. This is a very well thought out, researched article. Just that I thought the last paragraph kind of reduces the overall quality greatly.

    • You have a point there.

      However, when it comes to the issue of life and death, when poor Ghanaian mothers, who are really the most important part of our society and mostly are the taxpayers, are left on hospital beds unattended to without care, and they die together with their newborns or unborn kids, I harbor very little respect for these twenty-eight year olds who feel blindly entitled to a ‘glamorous’ life, similar to America’s doctors!

      The writer may have been carried away there and perhaps I am equally gripped to monstrous proportions of why these doctors go on strike. But Ken, you could agree that it’s immoral for a doctor who has for all his/her life tagged at the apron strings of these women would refuse them care in the name of ‘better working conditions.’

      I will not respect wickedness in any shape or form. Nevertheless I see eye to eye with you that emotions, sometimes carried to excess do blur the overarching import of our arguments.

      Thanks for contributing!

  2. This article is so good that I’d be happy if I could disagree with it. But, wherever I sway my disagreement, I find myself in a stupefying dilemma. You make good arguments.

  3. There’s a whole other part of this discussion that hasn’t yet been touched. Our hospitals are grave yards in essence.

    What kind of education are we giving our medical students if they are only capable of killing us one at a time. i have to admit, 100 years ago, our traditional herbalists had better survival rates in their cults!

    For me this is simple. The education we give these doctors is probably not a quality one. We are wasting our money on them and we waste even more money paying under-trained professionals.

    The solution is simple. Let’s go back to the traditional system and let’s use our taxes rather to organize it and perfect it.

    • I completely agree with Nana. Traditional medicine works much better. But why have people lost trust in that system and rather moved to giving patients capsules and slicing them open with a knife?

      • I agree with you and disagree at the same time. I love herbal medicine, but that alone will fall short of our health needs especially when other people, like the drug giants of the world continue to bring new diseases to Africa.

  4. I completely disagree with this article because not all doctors working in Ghana are trained in Ghana or government sponsored students in Cuba,Russia,China and others. Some of us had to pay a whole lot of money for 6-7 years, qualify and come back to our motherland to work and what do we receive in return? Your assumptions are incorrect.Ghanaian fee paying students in medical school pay as much as $6000 so tell me why some of us shouldn’t feel short changed .

    • MIS J, I get your story. No matter how much some of our students spend elsewhere to become medical doctors it is still inconsequential since in our analyses at Patapaa, they make enough money in Ghanaian terms.

      One cannot expect a medical doctor in Ghana to be paid $200,000 as if they live in the US. A doctor in Ghana may take home a $20,000 a year paycheck, but in Purchasing Power Parity terms that average medical practitioner’s income translates into a hooping $300,000 year.

      The question is, is that not enough? If not, then why?

      I am sure many Ghanaians would be proud of your sacrifices, I do, but MIS J, medical doctors cannot expect to be paid like doctors in the USA when our GDP staggers at a stupefying fraction of theirs! Our African mothers and children also continue to make great sacrifices as well.

      Besides, let’s not forget where we come from. Let’s not forget why we are here. Our African herbalists who were intricate elements in our societies cured illnesses for free or took a chicken in for fees. Back then those herbalists were also trained for close to nothing by our communities. Our African societies have made great sacrifices as well!

      The same is true now, except for those few who got their education from abroad. Even then, though laudable, these sacrifices cannot morph into exorbitant demands. There’s a broader moral issue at stake here and I feel our medical doctors are heavy handed in the way they have demanded pay raises.

      Leaving our mothers and children to die on hospital beds especially in our rural communities is evil, MIS J. It is a sign of a collapsing society. It breeds animosity. It breeds hatred. It breeds greed and gluttony. And it is in a general moral context, very ungrateful. This destroys society! And for what? All that glitters, MIS J, is not gold.

      We have a duty to heal our society first. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any left to support us.

  5. First of all, education all over the world is expensive. While the capitalist society of US has it that most students who go into medicine in the US, barring their raw intelligence, is for heavy after-school remuneration, plus, the US being largely capitalist, thus engendering the heavy financial turnover. Again the there is every legitimate reason for doctors to bargain for more chips. The crux will lie only on how much are they bargaining for. To the extent that medical profession is putatively a largely altruistic one, more than anything else, ethically codified by te Hippocratic Oath, the compromise would have to be made viz a viz remuneration and selflessness and humanness, with with respect to rendering of care. That is why I have stipulated always that students entering medical school be vetted on categories that will be data analyzed to bring out the right mixture. Surely these students are bright and intelligent, but medicine is not just a scientific endeavor it is also an art and presently a bit of sociology and psychology! The payers know all the economics and PPPs.


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