Ghana doctors call off strike after government cowers to demands

With a previous Conditions of Service agreement – signed after a three-week long strike in 2015 – having expired on January 1 this year, the Ghana Medical Association had warned of another strike that could cripple public healthcare, if the government did not sign a new agreement by November 17

November 22, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch

An indefinite strike by doctors and dentists in Ghana’s government hospitals has been called off after the government agreed to sign a new Conditions of Service agreement, set to take effect from January 1, 2020. The previous agreement had expired on January 1, this year. 

The decision of the intended strike – that could cripple public healthcare in the country – was announced on November 10, following the 61st Annual General Conference of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA). The organization of doctors had given the government a week to sign the agreement, failing which an indefinite strike was called, starting Monday, November 18.

The erstwhile agreement with the doctors had been signed in 2015 after a prolonged strike to protest the absence of any codified conditions of service till then. After three weeks of strike action, the government finally caved and signed a Conditions of Service agreement which took effect on January 1, 2016, and was valid till December 31, 2018.

 The GMA, in its communique, claimed that it had engaged the ministry of health to renew the agreement, “prior to the expiration of this document,” but “to no avail. Post 31st December, 2018, the GMA is dissatisfied with the progress so far made.”  

Ghana Web reported that as part of the new Conditions of Service agreement the doctors and dentists demanded, “40% of basic salaries as accommodation allowance per month, 20% as core duty facilitation allowance, 30% clothing allowance, 20% maintenance allowance, 20% utility allowance, 50% as professional allowance and 25% special risk allowance and vehicle tax exemption to doctors.”

If the government failed to sign this agreement by “16 hours GMT on 17th November”, the GMA had warned that starting from “Monday, 18th November 2019, all medical doctors/dentists working in the public sector shall withdraw Outpatient Department (OPD) services. This would continue till Sunday, 1st December 2019.”

The GMA had further warned that from December 2, “all emergency services shall be withdrawn”, and from December 9, “all services shall be totally withdrawn.”

In order to prevent a repeat of the 2015 strike action the Ghana government responded on time, with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission’s (FWSC) promising to sign the agreed upon Conditions of Service agreement.

“We have finally reached an agreement with the government and based on that, we have suspended our intended strike. As we speak we both have agreed on certain issues and we think we are satisfied,” said GMA’s president Dr. Frank Ankobea.