Strikes and protests, involving more than 300 rotation nurses and midwives said to have been starved of internship allowances due them for nine months, are taking place across the Upper East region following the reported collapse of two rotation nurses whilst on duty out of hunger.
One of the interns reportedly collapsed at the Upper East Regional Hospital and the other worker (a female) purportedly fell unconscious at the Bawku Presbyterian Hospital. The striking young health workers told Starr News they resorted to the industrial action in the interest of patients and for the avoidance of legal problems.
“There is a saying that a hungry nurse is a potential killer. One of us collapsed and when we resuscitated him, he said he wasn’t sick but collapsed because he had not eaten the whole day. There was no food in his stomach and he had to walk a long distance from Zuarungu to the regional hospital. Government hasn’t paid our national service allowances since April, this year, to date. And the process that will lead to the payment of these allowances— generation of staff ID and biometric verification— hasn’t commenced.
“The government is taking us for granted. This is deliberate disrespect and punishment from the government. We can’t continue to go to work on empty stomachs. We are from various places across the country. We live in rented rooms and for over nine months now our landlords have been on our heads. Some have been thrown out by landlords and are now perching with friends where you would see four or five people in a single room,” said one of the rotation nurses, Emmanuel Dawani.
We’ve made Follow-ups to no Avail— Hungry Strikers
The striking interns say they did not just withdraw their services from the region’s health facilities. The walkout, they say, became the next option as their protracted outcry was continually met with unconcerned responses from authorities in the region.
“We have followed the structures. We went to the human resource manager at the regional hospital. We made follow-ups and the best he has been telling us is to wait, telling us the money would come when he doesn’t know. So, we should keep on waiting? Should we wait till we are dead before the money comes? And who picks that money? And what would be the use of that money then?
“We have also appealed to the hospital’s authorities for aid whilst waiting for our allowances to come, and they told us there is no money, they can’t help us. We wrote a letter to our matron. She submitted the letter to management and the response was that the regional director was not around; so, that letter cannot be worked on. When we made further contacts, our administrator told us that they would send the human resource manager to Accra to work on our documents and it’s not done. He is still around,” Jonah Ayamba fumed.
Jonah almost had tears in his eyes as he added: “And we are always working on empty stomachs. For nine months now we have been struggling. There is no news regarding our issue. The people responsible for working are not working. We’ve spoken to the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association to fight for us; there is no support from them. It is so frustrating. We are hungry. We don’t want to put any patient at risk and we don’t want anyone to take us on in court for mishandling any patient out of hunger and frustration; so, we embarked on the strike.”
The Processes should be Completed this Month— Regional Director
Only 75 interns among the several hundred rotation nurses and midwives in the region have had their staff identity cards generated and have been biometrically verified for the payment of their allowances, according to the protesters who say this figure is too low as compared to the “over 800 or 900” already captured in the other regions.
“Last week, a biometric list came out. Only 75 names were captured in the whole of Upper East Region. It’s a deliberate attempt by this government to punish us. We have been making follow-ups. This is the ninth month. They just want to punish us.
“I’m compelled at my age to ask my father for transport fare so I can report to work every day and he tells me, ‘Rufina, do you want to kill me? I’ve been paying your school fees. Now you have completed. You are supposed to take pay so I can also rest’. We are tired. This is not what we were told in the beginning,” Rufina Apuri complained.
Speaking to Starr News in a telephone interview on Monday, the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Winfred Ofosu, expressed confidence the agitated interns would smile this December.
“The processes are far advanced. They’ve managed for nine months. I’m sure with a little bit more one or two weeks, they can still manage and get their allowances. If they go on strike and their relatives come and there is no one to take care of them and something unfortunate happens, would they be happy? They would not be happy.
“I’m not happy that they haven’t gotten their allowances. But it is a process and we’ve communicated to Controller that this is the situation, so they have to expedite action. I would appeal to them that they should rescind their decision. I believe with the discussions we have had with Controller, they should do their biometric this month and once that is done, they will get their allowances,” stated Dr Ofosu.