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Reinstate forced-out lab physicians or we’ll disrupt healthcare delivery – GMA

Physician Assistants Strike.png File photo of lab physicians

Sat, 5 Jun 2021 Source: Andrew Amenyo

It is a known and accepted settled fact that in the United Kingdom, the laboratory plays a 90% role in healthcare/patient management.

The laboratory’s role in healthcare and patient management involves provision of diagnosis, patient follow up and monitoring and recommendation of appropriate treatment/therapy to the extent that the clinicians always wait for confirmation by the lab results before in-patients are discharged. If nothing at all, at least the COVID-19 pandemic is a testimony that has brought the importance of the lab in healthcare to the fore; the COVID-19 chorus is “TEST, TEST and TEST” otherwise those infected will not be known and there will be no accurate health data to work with to manage the pandemic. This is not limited to COVID-19 infection/control alone; it transcends all areas/aspects of healthcare.

It is very sympathetic that the politicians in Ghana do not know that when they travel to the developed countries for medical care/review, what they go for are the lab and radiology investigations. The Doctors/Clinicians in Ghana do not tell them the truth otherwise they will not toy with the Medical Laboratory Scientists and the labs.

The Ghanaian Clinicians/Doctors do so in order to continue to take/enjoy the glory of the lab; they are not satisfied with the prestige that they are enjoying at the expense of the healthcare scientists who do the most important work.

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) is out of touch with the reality and current trends in the healthcare practice. I write to entreat the clinicians (doctors) in Ghana to look into themselves and do a serious soul searching. The GMA should not inflict any pain and anguish on innocent Ghanaians as a result of their greed, selfishness and unbridled appetite for power that they do not deserve and has not accrued to them.

The major technical divisions/directorates in the healthcare sector are the Laboratory Directorate, Radiology Directorate, Nursing Directorate, Pharmacy Directorate and Medical (Clinical) Directorate. The Laboratory Physicians also known as Pathologists are clinicians and, therefore, belong to the Medical (Clinical) Directorate. The Lab Physicians are employed into, enjoy the conditions of service of and run/progress through the hierarchy (ranks) of the Medical (Clinical) Directorate.

The home of the Biomedical Scientists also known as Medical Laboratory Scientists on the other hand is the Laboratory Directorate. The Medical Laboratory Scientists are, therefore, employed into, enjoy the conditions of service of and run/progress through the hierarchy (ranks) of the Laboratory Directorate. What are the GMA/Lab Physicians about? It appears the Ghanaian doctors do not understand their profession and healthcare.

It is, therefore, very bizarre and a complete nonsense for the Lab Physicians and their employers to be fighting for the headship of the Laboratory Directorate. The Laboratory Physicians are fighting to be a square peg in a round hole. The weird and unthoughtful behaviour and demand of the Laboratory Physicians have created a vacuum in the Laboratory Directorate for over eighty (80) years.

The Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service have not been able to appoint Director of Health Laboratory Services because of this longstanding problem/fight for the post. The interview called by the Public/Civil Service Commission in the early 1990s to fill the Director and Deputy Director Posts of Health Laboratory Services was interrupted and eventually prevented by the Laboratory Physicians.

Dr Asamoah Adu, a Laboratory Physician and the then Acting Head of Health Laboratory Services appeared on the scene with a letter asking for the interview to select a Director to replace him to be put on hold as the proceedings were about to begin.

Dr Asamoah Adu was chosen by consensus between the PNDC Government/Ministry of Health and the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists to replace Dr, Cecilia Bentsil following the forceful removal of the latter (Dr, Cecilia Bentsil) from the post by the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists for the same reasons that we are witnessing today.

Dr Asamoah Adu who was not known to be actively involved in the fight was chosen to act as Head of Health Laboratory Services pending an urgent interview to be organised to select a Medical Laboratory Scientist as a substantive Director for the Health Laboratory Services. This agreement later turned out to be a sell out by the then Executives of the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists.

Mr Ofori Mensah (President referred to as “Mba boni” by the PNDC Government) and Mr Edwin Narteh-Olaga (Secretary) were awarded Government of Ghana Scholarships to leave the country immediately to pursue Masters Degrees in the United Kingdom with the sole purpose to weaken the front of the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists. This tactics adopted by the PNDC Government worked to perfection; the Executives of the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists fell for the bait, called an emergency meeting to end the strike/ industrial action and left the country immediately after the meeting paving the way for Dr Asamosh Adu to be entrenched in the post until he retired.

I call on the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists not to repeat the mistakes of the past this time round; they should ensure that the right thing is done to bring the unjust treatment to an end once and for all.

The Lab Physicians have done a lot of harm to the Health Laboratory Services in the country over the years and it is time that Ghanaians join/support the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists to correct the mistakes in order to enjoy improved quality service delivery. Ghanaian clinicians/doctors must be satisfied with their chosen profession and stop causing confusion/commotion in the health sector.

It is only Ghanaian doctors who want everything for themselves only. What the GMA and the health authorities are seeking to do is to deny the Medical Laboratory Scientists with PhD degrees the opportunity to progress to and retire as Directors whilst the other colleague healthcare professionals including the nurses, pharmacists and the doctors themselves progress to the pinnacles of their professions.

This absurdity is very demeaning and disrespectful to the Medical Laboratory Scientists and their profession and should not be allowed to happen and flourish in any civilised society. The GMA has and is only demonstrating a colonial and imperial mentality which must stop. The doctors must limit themselves to the Medical Director post and stop fighting for the Laboratory Director post.

Columnist: Andrew Amenyo