The pied piper and the Ghanaian junior doctor

Source: Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane
Date: 27th-july-2015 Time:  1:26:29 pm

It’s not exactly story time but why don’t I tell the tale anyway?

I’d come home after school in 2008 and as usual got ready to watch cartoons.

It was the first time I had ever seen such a didactic cartoon. It was a popular one, as I later found.

The Pied Piper is a German folk tale of the 1900s. He was a man dressed in multi-coloured apparel who was hired by residents of a certain town to lure the rats in the town away using his magic flute.

The piper did his duty as expected.

The citizens (some versions say the mayor) on the other hand refused to pay the piper for the work that he had done.

He (the piper) decides to pay them back in their own coin by using his magic pipe to lead the children of the town away just like he did with the rats. About 130 followed him to a cave and disappeared forever. However, three children remained to recount the story to the people of the town – the lame one, who could not be quick enough to follow, the second child was deaf and decided to follow out of curiosity and the third child was blind so he was not able to find his way into the cave.

Some versions claim that the piper returned the children after the villagers paid several times the original amount of gold.

Whichever version of the story you may have heard, there is only one truth – great harm was done just because the villagers refused to keep their part of the deal which was paying the piper his due.

Now let’s get out of the plane to Hamelin and get on another flight. I want us to taxi to our homeland – Ghana.

The junior doctors of Ghana are experiencing 11 months of no salary after six good years of school. I find that very ‘interesting’. It is very ‘interesting’ because Ghana complains about brain drain and the fact that she does not have enough doctors.

But can we blame her?

After all the doctor-patient ratio in the country as at March 2014 stood at approximately 1:15,259.  That’s in comparison with the standardized ratio by the World Health Organization of 1:600.

Ghana and Malaysia had independence at the same time and as at that particular time of independence, the two were at par.

Years on, Malaysia has proven to be far ahead of Ghana in almost all aspects of development. The doctor to patient ratio is not an exclusion. Truth is, Malaysia should have reached the standardized doctor to patient ratio of 1:600 by the end of 2015.

Is this not laudable?

On the July 23, there was a report about a number of newly qualified doctors sitting at home, jobless, under the pretext of awaiting placement despite the fact that there were staff shortages in the communities.

Was this not the same country that wept about brain drain and the fact of not having enough doctors in the country? This is unbelievable, right? Except it isn’t.

Wait till I give you the specifics.

Those doctors are not a pair, neither are they a dozen or a score that sit hopelessly at home but they are about 180.

Every one of these doctors has completed their degrees and two years of internship, making them legally qualified to practice in their various communities. Yet, they all sit at home and starve on these laurels.

Doctors in Ghana have been going on strike ever since before the current Pope became an altar boy. I used to wonder why this was so.

Some people even thought that since doctors are the most highly paid health professionals in the country, they were just being ungrateful. I used to think so too until I discovered that the only real benefit that doctors get from their work is a two week mortuary service when they die.

And nothing else.

Yes, if a doctor falls ill or if a female doctor is pregnant, the doctor would have to pay the bills just like any other patient regardless of the number of years that they may have spent working in that same hospital.

In short, all the doctors in Ghana have no conditions of service.

That is why Dr.Kwabena Opoku-Adusei, the President of the Ghana Medical Association, took that bold step which involved sending a report that aims at spelling out the proper conditions of service for doctors to the Health Minister and threatening to strike if the issue is not resolved.

In 2014, there was a report that three Ghanaian medical students were arrested in Cuba for armed robbery. This behaviour was considered as unusual since Ghanaian medical students have a reputation for being good ambassadors.

This, despite constant financial problems they may have been facing in their various countries of residence. The students apprehended students were said to be children of some high profile public officials in Ghana, including a minister of state.

Simply put, these Ghanaian medical students on scholarship had to resort to armed robbery because the government did not foot the bill of $250 per month in stipends for each student.

It was more of an issue of survival for these students, although I’d be loath to justify such an action.

Next is the issue of power crisis in Ghana.

I would like to state categorically, without being political, that this is one of the worst stages that Ghana has ever gone through.

Aside the fact that Korle-Bu, Ghana’s premier teaching hospital, still does not have regular supply of water and the fact still remains that scrub nurses and doctors have to rely on buckets of water from a small storage tank during surgeries.

The power crisis has caused more harm than good to the health sector.

Imagine being a surgeon. Just in the middle of a procedure, the light goes off. The patient dies.

Or picture the number of premature babies who lose their lives everyday someone decides that the vicinity hospital must experience a power-cut. That is a pathetic picture for everyone including the doctor who may not have been able to perform their prime duty – saving lives.

Now, what in the world has the story of the Pied Piper have to do with doctors in Ghana? A lot.

Let’s just say that the pied piper represents all the doctors in Ghana, the villagers (or in some cases the mayor) stands for the government and the children stand for the patients in the country.

The government signed an agreement that once these doctors are qualified, they would receive their due. This agreement was signed the moment those doctors decided to foot those huge medical school bills and aced all their exams.

So, the doctors fulfill their part of the deal. Yet, the government fails to pay them and are left sitting at home and waiting for placement.

Some of these same doctors decide to seek a better life which involves using their skills oversees but the government decides to term it as “brain-drain”.

The few doctors left, luckily, get placement in their various communities.

But, government decides not to give them their due when it decides that there are no conditions of service and no salaries for junior doctors who have worked hard for 11 months.

Not to think about the fact that there is inadequate equipment for work with and frequent power-cuts during day-time surgeries, coupled with the torch-lights used for surgeries at night.

The solution to all this is very simple. The government and the authorities involved have to fulfill their part of the deal.

They must pay the doctors for their work and stop beating about the bush with their conditions of service.

Can we blame the doctors for dancing to the beat of the government’s fontonfrom?

After all, it is he who pays the piper that calls the tune.


5 thoughts on “The pied piper and the Ghanaian junior doctor

  1. 11 months plus 1doctor :15,259 patients is just too pathetic. How about we cut spending as a nation and give the young doc some bread to eat. 6 years of study deserves a better offer.
    Great Piece @adzeley.


  2. That’s a great piece right there and this problem needs to be addressed . I think we need leaders who can plan and use our resources properly. I mean there’s always money , but where it is channeled to is the problem. We need those doctors.


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