Editorial: Relief returns to health sector following strike call off

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The country is relieved that the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) called off its strike action yesterday, which started on Monday.

The strike action by the GRNMA, the Ghana Physicians Association and the Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anesthetists lasted for three clear days before the National Labour Commission (NLC) managed to begin compulsory arbitration with the leadership of striking nurses and midwives in a bid to resolve their grievances.

Following a crunch meeting with the NLC, the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and the striking nurses, midwives and Allied health associations at the behest of government, some form of resolution has been reached with the health workers resuming work today.

We believe the resumption to work by these critical health workers would bring a lot of respite since the strike left many patients stranded nationwide because of their absence. President of GRNMA, Perpetual Ofori Ampofo disclosed that their decision follows a court order by the National Labour Commission (NLC).

GRNMA to embark on the strike following failure of government to address certain demands which include allowances for rent, uniform, transport and professional development. We pray for a fruitful outcome of the negotiations since the strike action has really affected healthcare delivery around the country.

The Medical Director of the Tema General Hospital, Dr. Richard Antony mentioned earlier that doctors covered the wards day and night with some serving medication to in-patients, particularly at the Children’s Emergency Unit.

The situation must have been awkward for healthcare centres around the country as several reports of general unease was making the airwaves. Additionally, there was also a lot of pressure on some private health facilities and specialist hospitals in Accra.

President of the GRNMA said that although the nurses, as law-abiding citizens, have abided by the court order, the group could resume their industrial action if the outcome of the meetings doesn’t meet their expectation.

We believe the NLC is up to the task of bringing about a resolution since that is their core mandate in line with the Labour Act (Act 651). However, we would also like to urge the NLC not to victimize any nurse or allied health worker who laid down their tools in line with the wishes of the GRNMA in order not to antagonize them.

COVID-19  bites …

The coronavirus pandemic impact on the economy is still being felt as 161,066 businesses were closed since June, despite easing of some of the restrictions.

New data from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has revealed that GDP data for the second quarter of the year saw businesses in the services sector record the highest number of closures, as more than 96,200 businesses were not operating.

The manufacturing sector also had more than 14,900 businesses closed; with agriculture and other industry also seeing 5,157 and 445 businesses closed.

The business closures were largely due to measures announced by government to contain the spread of the virus which included imposing restrictions on movements of people; closing of in-land and air borders; shutting of events centres and hotels for conferences, and other gatherings among others – all of which had consequences on other ancillary businesses.

Sales revenue among accommodation and food businesses dropped to as low as GH¢700,000 in April compared to GH¢2.5 million for the same period last year, just to demonstrate the effect on businesses.

The manufacturing sector also saw sales revenue slashed by almost half, recording GH¢25.6 million in April compared to GH¢44.9 million same period last year.

To this end, government instituted a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) to address the disruption in economic activities, hardships of people, and to rescue and revitalize industries.  Another programme is the COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation Enterprises Support (CARES) programme which is a GH¢100 billion project to be carried out in two phases aimed at stimulating the economy.

These are some of the mitigating actions that government is taking to bring the economy back to life by injecting liquidity into the system and trying to ease the cash flow difficulties of businesses.

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta did not mince words when he informed Parliament during the mid-year review that he expects not less than three years for a full recovery of the economy. Hence, these measures instituted by government is meant to enable the struggling business sector to write-off some of their losses and pay staff their wages.

Governments around the world are implementing various fiscal measures to mitigate the adverse effect and provide relief for businesses and households. Several countries have started to recover. However, in the absence of a medical solution, the strength of the recovery is highly uncertain and the impact on sectors and countries uneven.

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