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Mr. President, please save the trainee nurses!!

Thu, 5 Dec 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

My good friends, there seems to be too much running around in circles. No day passes by without something coming from officialdom to confirm my fears that the government is spiraling itself out of control and stepping on too many toes for which it will be punished at Election Time.

We are even not talking about the adverse impact on the country itself. Of course, not everything done by the government can be said to be in the national interest. That is why we must sit up to face up to the government, especially when it goes wrong.

So, the latest mis-step is that the government is moving ahead to scrap allowances of trainee nurses too. It is a bad move to be reconsidered.

Of course, it appears the government’s cost-recovery measures are being pursued with a heartlessness that must frighten everybody who sympathizes with the victims-to-be.

As if not perturbed by the agitations at the teacher-trainees’ front regarding the cutting off of their allowances as recently announced (and is set to be enforced), the government has decided to take its draconian measures to the health sector.

In fact, I don’t welcome this move at all. It is counter-productive and must be abandoned before it creates more credibility problems for the government.

Anybody who supports this move to deny the trainees their little allowance is heartless. That is what I have gathered from the statement attributed to Kwame Adinkra Amo (the President of the Ghana Registered Nurses Association).

He has described statements made by the former Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Prof. Badu Akosa, in support of government’s decision to scrap allowances of trainee nurses as unfortunate.

(See: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=294061)

Added to that is my political instinctual feeling that those supporting the move by the government are not seeking the wellbeing of the government and the country that it rules. The measure will definitely create enemies for the government, which Election Time will confirm.

There are more gripping aspects of the issue, though. The common saying that the teacher’s reward is in heaven must be enough to touch any heart that pumps blood. Like teachers, nurses too are gearing up for their reward in heaven. Two vital professions that no society can do with but whose members are least respected or rewarded for their human-centred activities.

Tell me, someone. Who can progress in life without the influence of a teacher or a nurse? Whose labour brought up the Presidents and so-called bigshots in government? How many teachers haven’t influenced lives? How about the nurses to whom they rush whenever they have the slightest health problem? So, why no respect for these professionals?

I am really troubled by this decision to withdraw allowances for the trainee nurses. That on the teacher trainees seems to have been finalized and won’t be changed despite all entreaties. Sad; really saddening!!

Undoubtedly, nursing is more of a yeoman’s job than any profit-making venture, regardless of how nurses join their fellow public sector workers to agitate for better remuneration and conditions of service, generally. After all, they go to the same market for survival and must have their labour’s worth.

But beyond that material level is the real issue: nursing is more of a philanthropic or humanitarian venture than anything else. Nurses guided by the Florence Nightingale spirit are in the profession to save human beings from suffering, using their training and natural bent for empathy to serve humanity’s health needs.

Some bad nuts in the profession may put their personal interests above the humanitarian aspects of the profession; but their deeds or posture don’t devalue the foundation on which the profession is built. Every human community has bad nuts to explain why perfection is not a human quality.

But in this case of Ghanaian nurses, it is imperative that the authorities don’t do anything to add more to their woes. We know the challenges facing them at the workplace—working under virtually inhuman conditions, improvising in the face of obsolete or non-existent healthcare equipment; being exposed to communicable diseases brought for treatment (because they lack the appropriate gadgets and protective cover); coping with the general harsh economic situation in the country; lacking means of transportation to and from work and, therefore, working overtime to keep themselves afloat; and many other depressing reasons.

Translate all these problems from these established professionals to those in training and you should see the enormity of the problem and sympathize with those trainee nurses now to be deprived of their allowances.

In fact, the government is being insensitive to the highest degree and must be blamed if the health sector suffers adversely from this draconian measure. We don’t know how much “allowance” a trainee nurse is paid to warrant any fuss over this concession; but we can say that conditions under which these trainee nurses function don’t justify any removal of the allowances.

The problems associated with their admission into the training institutions, board-and-lodge facilities, and many others that confront them are heavy.

If the government indeed wants the health sector to survive, it must rather invest much in them, including providing every opportunity for anybody entering that sector to have the best training and be psychologically attuned to the reality of the health situation in the country. Nothing must be done to demoralize of shoot down the system.

I urge the government to rescind this decision on allowances for the trainee nurses and teachers so that those who have the aptitude for those professions can help us move the country forward.

A country that has a good system of education and health delivery is next to being developed with a human face. Education and health are very crucial to national development, and the government must do all it can to sustain efforts at improving the situation, not dampening spirits and negating efforts.

Day-in-day-out, President Mahama and his team boast of the vision to establish hundreds of schools and hospitals all over the country as part of the “Better Ghana Agenda”. What will these physical structures amount to without the human elements? How do we hope to produce professionals for the schools and hospitals if we demoralize the trainees and frustrate efforts at preparing them for the challenges ahead?

I hope that those in government supporting the removal of all these allowances have the capacity to see things beyond their noses to know that the future is at stake and that the government’s ill-considered measures regarding the allowances for these trainees will definitely have a negative impact on human resource development.

It is better for the government to look more closely at how revenue is spent and to close the loopholes so that enough money can be generated for use to support human resource development in vital areas such as health and education. Turning round to deprive the trainees of the allowances that they need to undergo training will not solve any budget shortfall problem. Is this NDC government really socially democratic? A paradox of sorts!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.