MEDICAL LABORATORY SCIENTIST’S STRIKE: a desperate call for fairness
The Ghanaian doctor, Ministry of Health (MoH), and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) are to blame for the ongoing strike by the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS).
No professional group takes delight in going on strike but it seems strike action is becoming the only language that Ghanaian authorities understand. It is rather unfortunate.
All professionals ply their professions to earn a living. Yet some bad-eggs try to deceive, inflate their own credentials and sometimes go to the extent of intimidating others with fabrications so that they can exploit them. Is this professional?
Where practitioners are unregulated by a professional body, they may have no reputation to keep or standards to uphold and they may fleece the public by charging fees which border on exploitation. They may constitute a menace to society as their main aim is not service delivery but to make a quick and easy buck off the sweat of the unsuspecting citizenry.
I wish to state that a true professional is one who is a member of a leadership group in society and as such, they are in control and visible.
Membership of a professional group confers status, referent power, prominence and authority. In the same vein, it demands duties such as the ethical responsibility to live up to their professional calling and to be honest with clients.
The woes of Medical Laboratory Science Profession in Ghana is a matter of sabotage, suppression and discrimination by the doctors who think they know it all hence are the “super humans” in Ghana or the only people who have gone to school. The Ghanaian doctor feels he alone must be at the head and neck of every unit in the hospital so they can always take decisions to favor their profession.
The Ghanaian government is also bent on meeting the demand of medical officers all the time to the neglect of other professional groups especially those in the health sector. This is a total discrimination and abuse of power to favor medical doctors who because they think can shut down the whole health system to coerce government into meeting their demands, regardless of the implications.
It is high time we eschewed this mediocrity as a country and face reality by allowing common sense and the rule of law to work in our nation.
Services provided in the health sector is a team work; one man does not do it all alone and one man does not know it all. Those who studied other programs are not block headed. Anybody can study to become a medical doctor.
In fact, in an area where professionals have evolved to become autonomous, it is prudent that they are allowed to develop to the benefit of Ghanaians, but the Ghanaian doctor always wants to suppress every other professional in the health sector particularly to be under them and our government is afraid to tell them that they are wrong. Where does medical knowledge come from? Is it not by training? Does that make them superhuman? No!
Currently, the medical laboratory professionals are not represented in the management of our health institutions. This keeps the lab professionals in a total blackout where other professional groups would have to go to meetings and make decisions on their behalf.
This is really affecting the quality of laboratory services provided in Ghana hence must be addressed.
Meanwhile, medical laboratory is the backbone of the healthcare system. Without the lab, nobody can tell that exact disease that is worrying you, and whether a particular medication is working for you or not. We go to hospitals and spend so much time at the lab, waiting for results, do we really care to know why?
Sometimes, if is not as a result of the breakdown of an equipment, then it might be a shortage of staff or non-availability of lab consumables. The challenges cut across medical laboratory management, human resource, financing, logistics and consumables shortages, infrastructure and many others.
These became clear and revealed with evidence in a national survey carried out by the Ghana Health Services with enormous support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Atlanta) in 2009.
Currently, no Ghanaian medical laboratory has an international accreditation except a section of the 37 Military Hospital Lab. So the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), adopted the GS ISO 15189: (2017) which demands a director with competences for Medical Laboratory Services to help achieve that accreditation and to regularize the practice. The establishment of a medical directorate which will also help eliminate the frequent shortage of consumables and funds to improve the turnaround time for patients who visit the lab for medical laboratory testing.
This is a good call and should not be compromised by any greedy person but doctors have decided to develop an “alien” program to be forced down the throat of Ghanaians by the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS) instead of leaving their existing association to join the laboratory professionals. I would not have bothered if that was even legal in the context of the interpretation of Section 50 of ACT 857, 2013.
No matter how much you know of clinical sciences, you would not be allowed to practice in any medical consultation room unless you are a physician. Why then are medical officers, who basically practice from the consulting room to theater, be allowed to hijack the headship of Medical Laboratory practice in Ghana?
One wonders what at all they would be doing that the autonomous medical laboratory professionals who have been trained since 1973, from certificate level to PhD levels, not be able to do now?
Human as we are, we live by faith and high morals. Without ethics and morality, the society decays and there is retrogression in national development.
However, a professional worth his salt won’t promise trusted only to intentional put his patients in harm’s way. A professional is not a novice but a skilled and competent person in the field he professes.
He knows his onions. He has high levels of personal integrity and self-regulation, such that he will not be swayed by bribes or other gratifications in the discharge of his noble services.
The word profess means to avow or lay claim to some expertise. Hence, we have professors who are university dons with specialist knowledge in particular fields of academic endeavor. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (11th Edition 2006) defines a professional as “a person having impressive competence in a particular activity.”
It explains further that “a profession is a paid occupation carried out by professionals and not amateurs.”
So, to set the records straight and eliminate conflict of interest in the health sector, The Health Professions Regulatory Bodies ACT, 2013 (ACT 857) was promulgated.
The ACT spells out who qualifies as a professional and sets out regulations and practices of all the health professions in Ghana. The ACT is divided into parts: PART 1 – Allied Health Professions Council which includes the Medical Laboratory Profession; PART 2 – Medical and Dental Council (Physicians); PART 3 – Nursing and Midwifery Council (Nurses and Midwives); PART 4 – Pharmacy Council (Pharmacists) and PART 5 – the Psychology Council (Psychologists).
From this definition, we can infer that a professional is someone who has undergone some training or a rigorous internship and who has been certified to have acquired enough knowledge and skills as to be deemed competent or proficient to render services in a given vocation. A professional has formal qualifications and has been articled or registered and licensed to practice by his/her professional body or association.
There are commercial undertones and undercurrents in the above definition. A profession is a vocation, thus apart from the commercial interest; a professional has an obligation to live up to his/her reputation.
We can contrast professionals from quacks, pretenders, charlatans and self-styled practitioners and this latter groups have no external supervision or regulation and in most cases, these are those who have awarded themselves high-falutin degrees and titles.
Thus, we have pastors, reverends and bishops whose mission is to win souls into the Kingdom of God, medical laboratory scientists, doctors and nurses have the mission to save lives, the police to detect crime and apprehend criminals and keep law and order, farmers to grow food to feed the nation, civil and public servants to ensure that through their actions and interventions, they ensure that the wheels of governance do not grind to a halt, teachers to ensure that they impart quality education and that they imbue a sense of proper conduct in tutees and pupils, cleaners to ensure that residences and premises are bristling, neat, and spick and span.
Professionals are to give maximum disclosure to help the patient make informed decisions, to deliver their services with courtesy and respect for the privacy of the patient, to deliver services in trust and to go an extra mile beyond pecuniary considerations. Can we say so of our current doctors?
Ghanaian doctors are registered with MEDICAL AND DENTAL COUNCIL under PART 2 of ACT 857, 2013 while the Medical Laboratory Professionals are regulated by the ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONS COUNCIL which is under PART 1.
Under Section 50 of ACT 857, PART 2, the Interpretation of “medicine” includes surgery, anaesthesia, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, psychiatry, public health, internal medicine, radiology and radiotherapy.
In the tall list of areas mentioned under medicine, where the law enjoins one to practice under the regulations of Medical and Dental Council, there is no mention of a LABORATORY PHYSICIAN.
It is therefore illegal for another professional group to try taking the work of laboratory professionals. Anyone who wants to practice as such commits an offense by making false declaration in my view under Section 48 where Offenses are described.
It is rather prudent to pave way for the laboratory professionals to develop themselves to benefit the nation than to create illegal professional niches. It is illegal for individual to register with two professional groups in the country. If somebody wants to practice another profession, he or she must ‘deregister’ with an existing professional group he or she already belongs and now register with the new professional group he or she wants to practice with.
As the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS) went on strike, I have gathered with dismay how some medical superintendents have resorted to using “cleaners” and unqualified people in their stead forgetting that the health of Ghanaians is important. This is rather unfortunate.
Doctors in this country have embarked on strike actions over fuel and clothing allowances, who asked somebody to work in their stead? This is the disregard and suppression that medical laboratory professionals have been battling with in Ghana hence the need for the laboratory professionals to have a directorate and be properly represented at management meetings.
As the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS) are on strike, many patients would be wrongly diagnosed and wrongly treated because we have gathered with dismay how some medical superintendents have resorted to using “cleaners” and unqualified people in their stead forgetting that the health of Ghanaians is important. Not to talk of those who will lose their lives for not getting blood. That is rather unfortunate.
I’m sure they are doing so in order to paint an opposing picture to the general public the reality on the grounds and I see that to be in bad faith.
Even doctors who have direct contact with patients, have embarked on strike actions in this country over fuel and clothing allowances, but who asked somebody to work in their stead?
This act points to the blatant disregard and suppression that the medical laboratory professionals have been facing in Ghana hence the need for laboratory professionals to have a directorate.
Some doctors also deliberately give the identity of laboratory professionals to patients as lab technicians, can you imagine?
For God’s sake, we are all Ghanaians and every profession is important. The inability of those in authority to feel the plight of ordinary Ghanaians and call a spade a spade instead of pleasing a self-seeking group of professionals who have no expertise in laboratory practice is causing a serious turbulence in the health sector and the overall effect is deleterious to the health outcome of Ghanaians.
If something should gain the attention of authorities to do the needful thing, it must be the plight of vulnerable patients and pregnant women who cannot afford to travel outside the shores of Ghana to seek medical attention. There is no doubt that the Medical Laboratory Science Profession and the respective medical laboratory facilities in Ghana are facing numerous challenges but because the professionals do not go on strike to demand money or anything from the government, people think all was well.
In this era of evidence based medicine, Ghanaians deserve better health care delivery through the quality Medical Laboratory Services which provides the evidences that support accurate medical diagnosis.
The Minister of Health is on record to have said that the request of Medical Laboratory Scientist to be independent and manage their own affairs cannot be possible due to the “alien” Laboratory Physicians trained by the GCPS.
A law by the GSA cannot be implemented because GCPS says it should not since they have created Laboratory Physicians which is even not recognized by law. I cannot imagine why an illegality could be supported by those who are to protect Ghanaians from same.
Is it the case of when it involves super powers, we could relax the laws? What is backing the creation of jobs for the so called Laboratory Physicians?
I am of the view that, Ghanaians should not be made to suffer because a College has created an “alien” nomenclature and want to force it down on the government and other professionals. As far as the laws are concerned, the LABORATORY PHYSICIAN IS AN “ALIEN” hence the truth must be told as such.
I hereby wish to call on all well-meaning Ghanaians to speak up and let the practice of Medical Laboratory Science be maintained as autonomous as the laws have made it now.