The days after health workers went into wild jubilation following President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s announced incentive packages to them for their involvement in the COVID-19 fight, there is confusion over who is entitled to the special packages and why.
At the Ridge Hospital in Accra, tension is simmering over an attempt by management of the hospital to exclude some nurses at the facility from the 50% salary increment package.
There are reports that the list of health workers rather contains names of administrators, accountants and others who are not in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.
The packages, 50% bonus salary and a three-month nontaxable salary sent health workers across the country into wild jubilation but days after what was described as election-winning freebees by President Akufo-Addo, in the midst of the pandemic, there’s confusion as to who constitutes a frontline health worker and should be given the money.
The President in his fifth national broadcast, had said “all health workers”, then proceeded to use “Frontline health workers” involved in the Coronavirus fight, but these expressions have now been moved before the Minister of Health, Kweku Agyeman Manu, to define and act upon with no end yet in sight.
There are about 115,650 health workers operating in the country. They include nurses and midwives, enrolled nurses and Community Health nurses, Dental Technicians, Physician Assistants, Nurse Anesthetists, Physiotherapist, Dieticians, Optometrists, Pharmacists and Laboratory Technicians.
The rest are Laboratory Scientists, Dentists (Dental Surgeons), Medical Doctors as well as Health Administrators and Administrative Assistants
Also included Mortuary Attendants and other labourers and also Ambulance service staff and Paramedics.
Of these, 58 per cent of health workers in Ghana are nurses.
Some of the affected staff of the Ridge Hospital who spoke to Starrfm.com.gh yesterday said they realized their names had been dropped after departmental heads were made to submit a list of workers who should be included in the package on Wednesday.
“Our in charge was asked to submit the list of staff in our unit for the package and she wrote some names and left some because they say not all of us should be included. She said only those who check vital signs and Antenatal clinic (ANC) people should be included. This thing is causing discrimination and they should address it immediately,” one of the nurses said. The hospital has not responded to calls for its position on the matter.
Meanwhile, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has acknowledged the controversy the term ‘frontline health workers’ has caused, after the government offered to pay them more for their efforts in fighting the deadly coronavirus.
Suppressing a smile, and stifling a laugh, the president said the government would soon come out with an operational definition. “Effort is being made on the part of the government, to arrive at an acceptable definition,” he told leaders of the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) during a meeting on at the Jubilee House.
The GRNMA have asked for a 35% increase in salary for all their members and 50% for critical care staff. Their proposal came after the president, in his fifth address on the fight against Coronavirus, committed the government to a promise that; “…all frontline health workers will receive an additional allowance of fifty per cent (50%) of their basic salary per month, i.e. for March, April, May and June. The March allowance will be paid alongside that of April.”