The National Labour Commission (NLC) will meet the leadership of the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS) on Wednesday, June 2, this year to find an amicable solution to its concerns that have led to a nationwide strike.
The commission has also directed the association to call off its strike immediately.
The directive, signed by the Executive Secretary of the NLC, Mr Ofosu Asamoah, said the invitation was in accordance with Section 139 of the Labour Act 2003, Act 651.
It said with that intervention, and in pursuance of Section 161 of Act 651, the GAMLS “should call off the ongoing strike and/or any further intended action immediately for the parties to appear before the commission as scheduled”.
Action could cost GAMLS
Mr Asamoah indicated that the commission was heading to court to get the GAMLS to call off the strike and report to work with immediate effect, Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho reports.
He said members of the association had not fully complied with the rules with regard to going on strike, as they had not adequately informed their employers, neither had they served the required seven-day notice to the NLC.
He said as essential service workers, members of the GAMLS, by law, could not embark on such a strike and described the action as “illegal”.
Last Monday, GAMLS members of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) began a one-week sit-down strike in protest over their claims that the management of the hospital had imposed two medical doctors as leaders of the unit.
The hospital was unable to meet the demands of GAMLS for the removal of the two physicians from the Haematology Department after an initial one-week sit-down strike.
That action was escalated by the national association into a nation-wide strike last Wednesday and urged members to stay away from work until their issues were resolved.
This action has affected effective healthcare services at most health facilities, as the Daily Graphic observed during its rounds across the regions that members of the GAMLS had heeded the call by their national leadership.
Our reporters: Vincent Amenuveve (Bolgatanga), Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor (Kumasi), Edward Acquah (Accra), Augustina Dzodzegbe (Sekondi) and Fredrick Daoyenikye (Tamale) report that disappointment and frustration characterised the mood of patients who turned up at the various laboratories to seek various services, as the units were shut down in adherence to the call by GAMLS.
While some units had their staff reporting for work but not serving clients, others had them staying away completely from work.
Many patients, who had not been aware of the strike, were left stranded as they pondered over where they could go for attention.
When the Daily Graphic visited the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, also known as the Ridge Hospital, which receives an average of 300 cases a day, staff of the Laboratory Department were not working.
The waiting area of the department was virtually empty, with no staff member available to attend to patients.
Patients who showed up at the facility to seek laboratory-related services were left disappointed and had to go to nearby private laboratories.
A public notice signed by the Greater Accra Regional Secretary of GAMLS, Manasseh A. Nyarkoh, directed all medical laboratory professionals in the region to lay down their tools and prepare for further action.
“As the next line of action, all members in the Greater Accra Regional are hereby directed that there shall be a total shutdown of medical laboratory services and blood banking services in the region, effective Thursday, May 27, 2021, in solidarity with the action of the KATH Chapter of GAMLS,” it said.
Some patients who had shown up at the facility to do laboratory tests said they were unhappy about the situation and pleaded with the government to resolve the issue urgently.
“If I am unable to do the test today, I will have to do it over the weekend because I have other duties to attend to,” a patient, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
Another patient, Michael Boadi, expressed concern that he would have to pay more at the private facility, “but I don’t have enough money on me at the moment”.
In an interview, the Deputy Head of Laboratory at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Mr Asante Yeboah, said the facility would remain shut until the issue at KATH was completely resolved.
He said the management of the hospital engaged them yesterday to rescind their decision, a request he said they declined.
“We are not happy with what is going on. We equally have relations who are sick and need treatment, but we must also act to ensure that the right thing is done,” he added.
Fight for all
In the Ashanti Region, the strike declared by the members of the KATH branch of GAMLS received full support from other members in the region.
The Head of the Laboratory Department of the Manhyia Hospital, Mr Eric Aidoo, told the Daily Graphic that although their colleagues at KATH were the ones involved, the fight should not be seen as affecting KATH alone.
He said if the matter is not nipped in the bud, it would become the norm and be replicated in all the other facilities throughout the country.
The situation was not different at the Western Regional Hospital at Effia-Nkwanta, where staff of the Laboratory Department were at post but wore red armbands.
Some of them who spoke on condition of anonymity said the sit-down strike would continue throughout the weekend, while members awaited further directives on Monday.
At the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga, about 94 per cent of patients who patronise the laboratory were compelled to go for services in the few private medical laboratories available in the Bolgatanga municipality.
When the Daily Graphic visited the hospital, the whole unit was quiet, as patients, relatives and laboratory scientists were absent.
The Head of Administration of the hospital, Mr Zakariah Yakubu, observed that the strike would have a negative impact on clients, most of whom were under the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Emergency cases such as accidents and pregnancy-related complications would also suffer, especially as private medical laboratories did not normally stock blood for transfusion purposes, he added.
Private facilities to the rescue
The acting Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH), Mr Misbao M. Mohammed, told the Daily Graphic that even though the laboratory scientists at the facility were not at post, service delivery at the hospital was going on smoothly.
According to him, all patients and clients who required laboratory tests were referred to nearby private laboratories to run the tests.
“There are a number of private laboratories around the hospital and so we are referring patients to those laboratories for tests. These laboratories are fast and effective in their services, which make service delivery at the TTH not badly affected,” he stated.