In Ghana however, what do we see? Is it the political physicians? How many specialist categories can the Ghana council of surgeons and physician thick as present in Ghana let alone to consider the numbers enough for the populace?
To get the idea, take a walk into a Teaching Hospital and request for the service of Nephrologist or a Gastroenterologist. Let not even ask to see a Rheumatologist.
The point is that medicine is so broad that one person cannot know it all and that is why there are so many specialist programs in medicine than we can ever cover. Now a general practitioner is almost obsolete in the developed worlds. Just yesterday an article was publish by The Telegraph with a rather hash tittle “Only a fool would want to be a GP these days”.
In the midst of the demand for non-existent specialist in the main stream medicine in Ghana here, the Ghana Council of Surgeons and Physicians (GCSP) have decided to ignore it completely rather pushing all their strength to the medical laboratories.
Why should we be concerned with this misplaced priority by the GCSP?
The medical laboratory was made a standalone profession from medicine globally not long ago and this was an advancement necessitated by the increasing complexity of medical diagnoses.
Instead of concentrating on developing their own profession to the point where Ghanaians will have the confidence to seek treatment here even when they have the money to go elsewhere, the leadership of the Medical council are rather engaged in a struggle over medical laboratories.
Just a couple of months back, I came across a document with the tittle “curriculum for membership and fellowship in Laboratory Medicine” the basic qualification for the said fellowship is to have been a clinical physician practitioner with at least a year of practice and their main objective is to go and work in the Medical Laboratory.
The curriculum for that fellowship is so basic that even a level 200 student of medical laboratory science will pass it as a joke. Meanwhile fully trained physicians are taking it with the sole purpose of becoming leaders of laboratories across the country.
I thought the pettiness of the physicians in this country was only with regards to their ‘godly’ conditions of service but it has become obvious that the leadership of GCSP care about everything the Ghanaian patient.
Unfortunately the government of Ghana has failed to stand to the fundamentals and continuous to yield to their quest for health monopoly.
Part 1 of ACT 857, 2013 establishes the medical laboratory profession as distinct from the medical and dental professions. So why are the physicians so insistent on taking the leadership of the medical laboratory? Is it for the progress of medical care in Ghana or for some selfish interest?
Why does the medical laboratory profession have to struggle against the GSCP in matters regarding the medical laboratory? Can you see the irony in that?
You will agree with me that anything done without the necessary standards is a cause for worry especially when it comes to health. It is abundantly clear that diagnoses is the only aspect that makes medicine a scientific process else it is just a matter of trial and error. It is for this central position of the medical laboratory to healthcare that the Ghana Standards Authority in 2017 adopted the ISO 15189, 2012 edition which is the international standards for the practice of medical laboratory science.
One would have thought that the implementation of this standard will solve the professional politics that is reducing our healthcare system into rather a death trap. Unfortunately, the government of Ghana only spent money to print copies of this standards document to each government facility in the country just so it may take space on the administrator’s desk.
How can a policy be said to be implemented when even the core components have not been given a chance to work on the ground? Why is the government clearly biased towards one profession in the health team while knowing very well that each member of the team need to practice to its best in other to serve the tax paying Ghanaian well?
If your laboratory results are wrong, research has shown that more than 70% of decisions made towards your cure will be wrong[source]. Yet the policy makers of the health sector have always treated the Medical laboratory profession like a second citizen. The only time they remember the laboratory is when we are on a verge of an outbreak of a kind.
It will interest you to know that most often than not, even in the building of a Teaching Hospital, there is no space allocated for the medical laboratory until when they are ready to commission. That is when they remembers that the hospital needs a medical laboratory. This just tells you how petty the leadership of the health sector has been over the years. But don’t take my words for it, take a walk to your local hospital and find out what they have used as the medical laboratory. Mostly, it is either a store room of some kind or an office converted to a laboratory.
This happens because there is no place in the current structure of management for the inputs of a medical laboratory Scientist during critical decision points. Everyone goes to the meeting fighting for their own and there is no one to represent the views of arguably the most critical service providers in the hospital setting. How then can our health sector be trusted?
No wonder the rich and the politicians either find themselves in reputed private hospitals with standard diagnostic system or export themselves to seek for health elsewhere. Unfortunately, you and I have to face the shabbiness when we are sick.
The Ghana Association of Medical laboratory Scientist GAMLS have been crying for years with the government not for salary increment, not to ask the government to fuel their cars and take them to school but to just give them the necessary management structures that will allow them do their work to meet international standards and yet they are never heard.
Following the activities of the last congress of the association and the speech of the minister would have convinced you that it was time for the health sector to get serious. Unfortunately there seem to be something in the dark fighting against the progress of the diagnostic sector.
This something happens to be the GCSP because they think their membership have to be the leaders of the medical Laboratories. If the two professions are not distinct, why was there a need for Act 857 of 2013? How can Lawyers seek to be headmasters? Or is it because anything is possible in Ghana?
The medical laboratory profession is there to help the medical doctor do his job so it is baffling to find out that the same medical doctor is the one sabotaging the progress of this same profession. Could this be for the good of the patient? No! It is for selfish interest to monopolize the health sector even further.
The same medical doctors seeking for extra job in the laboratory are those that you never find at the hospitals, they are those that it takes two weeks to meet when you find yourself in a government facility where they are employed yet are readily available at their private facilities. The health sector has to be better than a money making grounds but that is not the case.
The medical laboratory professionals are going on strike for the good of the ordinary Ghanaian. They are seeking for a directorate and separate bank account for the medical laboratory. This is to allow the sector to manage itself in order to improve services to ordinary Ghanaian.
How many times have you been to the hospital only to be asked to go to a private laboratory to seek laboratory services? How many times have you gone to the laboratory only to wait until the next day for a full blood count results? This is exactly the reason for the strike action the laboratory professionals are embarking on.
Sometimes even a big institution such Tamale Teaching Hospital’s laboratory services do come to a halt for something as basic as EDTA tubes. EDTA tubes are the bottles used to collect blood samples for full blood count. Sometimes the cost of one full blood count can afford a 100 pieces of this EDTA tubes yet the hospital still allows it finish without restocking. This is the management crisis the professionals are struggling with the government to end.
It is time for tax payers to join and help the medical laboratory profession make a point to the government that they should allow the professionals to manage their profession. They should give them a place at the decision making points let them make inputs to better the healthcare delivery.
Any health worker can easily go back to school to become a medical doctor but the hospital is too big for only one profession, everyone doesn’t have to be a medical doctor. There is the need for nurses, pharmacies and so on and most definitely, there is the need for the medical laboratory scientist. Each profession in the health team has to be respected and allowed the room to grow.
My word to the physicians is that there is still huge room for improvement in your own field of work. You are yet to do a quarter of what you should be doing so instead of renting other professionals’ duties, it would do the Ghanaian patient a lot of good if you would concentrate on your own duties.
Let’s snap out of the medicine of yesterday into the advanced world of today. It important to note that in today’s medicine, the medical laboratory scientist is the friend of the physician because the excellence of the physician depends greatly on the excellence of the medical laboratory. After all, a man is only as good as his knowledge and the medical laboratory is the knowledge of the health setting.
Let’s snap out of this shabbiness and work together to foster the development of the health sector. While our patients are still dying from infections and labor, our counterparts at the other side of town are working hard against cancers and other advanced disease conditions. Is there a day the physician of Ghana will drop his selfish interest for the interest of advancement of the sector?
The government need to know that the populace entrusted the running of the country to them not to be the puppets of any profession but to stand for the general well-being of the public. It is time for them to stand on the fundamentals and do the right thing.
We should take Nigeria our neighbors as a case study, they are advancing today in the health sector because they overcame this professional rivalry yesterday. The government was strong enough to implement the act separating main stream medicine from medical laboratory to the fullest.
Ghana have the environment, both human and material resources to become an example for other countries with our health sector. This will happen only when the government becomes objective in its decision making process.
If the health sector of this country will ever advance, it will be when every distinct profession is given the full room to evolve and develop themselves. There is no room for one profession to export leadership to another profession. This is so fundamental that it is sad the government of Ghana have ignored it this long. When are we going to stand for a true change?