Health facilities in the Volta Region are having serious difficulties in running their operations due to an embargo placed on employment by the government.
“Not being able to employ new staff to replace vacancies is having a huge toll on us. Some of the facilities are on their knees and struggling to survive,” Dr Joseph Teye Nuertey, Volta Regional Director of Health Services, made the revelation in an interview with DAILY GUIDE in Ho recently.
He explained that in an attempt to fill the gaps left by vacancies created by retirements and transfers, “almost all the hospitals in the region have temporary staff awaiting absorption by government, so they are using their meagre internally generated funds (IGF) to pay these workers else to sustain service delivery.”
Government in an attempt to ensure a stable economy underwent an IMF programme that, among other things, led to an embargo on employment in the public and civil service. This was to reduce the wage bill, reduce government spending, reduce budget deficits and ultimately salvage the failing economy at the time.
Since 2013, no new employments have been made by government except for replacement of retired staff and other exceptional considerations. The policy, according to Dr Nuertey, has prevented the health facilities in the region from making new employments as the employer (government) has not approved such new employments.
He lamented that the employment of temporary workers by the health facilities which began on a minor scale “has assumed alarming proportions to the extent that district hospitals have to engage and pay temporary workers to be able to maintain the minimum package of services.”
Dr Teye Nuertey revealed that although his outfit was yet to complete the compilation of temporary workers across the region, preliminary works indicate that the smaller hospitals have an average of 40 temporary workers.
He said, “The list will soon be ready, but I can tell you that Worawora Hospital has about 48 temporary workers, while Keta has over 80 temporary workers. So the number of temporary workers depends on the size, services and pressure at a particular facility. So we can estimate an average of 40 temporary workers at all the hospitals in the region.”
The financial and management burden that this has on the hospitals and other health facilities has been compounded by the delay of reimbursement from the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
Currently, the NHIA owes service providers arrears spanning six months and above worth thousands and in some cases millions of Ghana cedis.
“This has put a serious strain on the finances of hospitals, especially at a time when the delayed reimbursement from the NHIA is still a challenge,” Dr Teye Nuertey added.
The financial burden created by the temporary workers phenomenon has also affected maintenance, replacement of malfunctioning equipment and hospital consumables, incentives for workers and other essential activities of the hospitals and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) as a whole.
Dr Teye Nuertey, therefore, called on government to, as a matter of urgency, release the embargo to allow health facilities to replace vacancies created by the retired staff.
From Fred Duodu, Ho ( [email protected] )
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