It is exactly 1 week since Community Health nurses in Ghana embarked on a nationwide strike to simply insist on the need to accord their profession the respect it deserves.
The recognition strike in nature was necessitated by a change of name from Community Health Nurses to Nursing Assistants notwithstanding other alleged factors such as non-availability of needed resources for their work in rural communities, discrimination, impediments to career progression and upgrade of their education and knowledge.
Eventhough I disagree with their decision to embark on strike without recourse to processes stipulated in Ghana’s Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) under section 162 which directs parties to an industrial disputes to settle within 3 days by negotiation or extended to compulsory arbitration if negotiation fails, I am worried about the antecedents to this strike and the critical effects on our nation.
Community Health Nurses prevent disease, provide direct care and promote healthy living by educating the public especially members of rural communities. They are known for their dedicated service in deprived communities under bad conditions; communities that many doctors, mainstream nurses and other health workers resist when posted to serve in those areas. The thought of pregnant mothers and nursing mothers queuing for pre and post natal services respectively since last week with no assistance is alarming and must attract the needed attention from the Ministry of Health and other Health authorities; only God knows when this will be done.
On a scale of preference, are job titles important than the life and future of babies not getting the required post natal health care in rural Ghana because of this strike? Are job titles important than the health of our old citizens in deprived rural areas? If not, then why has the Ministry of Health and other Health agencies not intervened in this matter since last week? What is the hidden motive to change their job title from Community Health Nurses to Health Assistants? If the motive is for positive reasons and the general progress of the health service industry, why the change of name without consulting the leaders of their association.
Communication is a major factor in labour disputes throughout the world and Ghana is not an exception. A simple matter that could have been collectively decided by all stakeholders turns sour because one stakeholder feels supreme and wants to “Lord” itself over the other. I am tempted to believe an allegation made by one of the Community Health nurses during their news conference last week in Accra; “Mainstream nurses have realized our relevance and our quest to upgrade ourselves for higher positions and opportunities. They therefore want to ensure there is a big gap between mainstream nursing and community health nursing therefore the proposal of the name nursing assistant”.
When will we get it right as a country that the welfare of citizens is important than egos and the interest of individuals. Restore the good old name of our Community Health Nurses; the name that gives them pride to work for their motherland Ghana in communities and conditions where you and I may hesitate to accept postings, give them the resources needed for their job and let this avoidable recognition strike end.
Below are pictures of what some of our community health nurses in deprived communities in Ghana go though in the conduct of their duties…
By Timothy Karikari