The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has asked unemployed nurse graduates who have “volunteered” to be contact tracers in the ongoing fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Ashanti region to “humbly put the work down and stay home” if they can’t accept GHC70 as daily allowances.
The service says its coffers would be overwhelmed if it goes on to pay each volunteer contact tracer a daily stipend of GHC 150 as earlier communicated by the President and initiated by the Ministry of Health during the 3 weeks partial lockdown on parts of the Greater Accra and Ashanti regions.
This follows agitations and a strike action by the so-called Coalition of Contact Tracers in the Ashanti region in protest of the decision by the GHS to cut the stipulated daily stipend by more than half.
In a June 11th letter addressed to President Nana Akufo Addo to announce their decision to embark on a strike and its calculated effect it would have on the fight against the disease at a time the country had 10,201 total cases, the coalition said, “some 16,530 contacts are not being followed which has the tendency of increasing our cases by some 33,060. With all these disturbing possible situations, it’s very surprising that no one is saying anything or responding to us”.
But speaking at a press conference to respond to the issues raised by the Coalition of Contact Tracers in Kumasi on Wednesday, the Ashanti Regional Director of Health, Dr Emmanuel Tenkorang said their demands cannot be tenable under the present conditions.
According to him, the striking contact tracers would not make the money they are demanding for a month’s job even if they were permanent employees of the Ghana Health Service and so should humbly refrain from the “voluntary work” if they are unable to accept what the service can afford to pay them.
Prior to the imposition of the partial lockdown, the service was only using some of its permanent employees for contact tracing then it decided to recruit some unemployed graduate nurses to reinforce the workforce for that period, Dr Emmanuel Tenkorang said.
“We could have let them go after the lockdown was lifted, because we could have relied on our staff to do the work. But some district directors suggested that we kept those who were productive and be given some stipends, so we agreed that those in Kumasi and Obuasi should be maintained. The ministry used to pay them GHS 150 a day, which works out to about GHC 4500 a month, but we said we couldn’t pay that amount of money because it would come from our own budget, so we agreed on paying GHC 70 to anyone who wanted to continue to do the work”, he explained.
The health director added that, “if you multiply GHC 70 by three, it is GHC 2,100; even our permanent nurses take home only GHC 1200 a month, so it is unwise to pay a volunteer GHC 2100 a month; it would even discourage the permanent staff. So we have told them that, if they cannot accept GHC 70, they should stop doing the work; our staffs are up to the task”.
Meanwhile, isolation and treatment facilities for COVID-19 in the Ashanti region are becoming overwhelmed following the recent spikes in caseload of the disease.
The Ghana Health Service is moving to obtain additional 100 beds to augment the existing 207 which are fully occupied in its isolation centres across the region to be able to admit more patients in the coming days.
Up to ninety seven (97) health workers in the region had tested positive for the disease with one case of death as at Wednesday june 17, 2020.
The total case count in the Ashanti region stood at 2403, with 38 deaths and 778 recoveries, the GHS announced at the press conference on Wednesday.
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