President John Evans Atta Mills yesterday paid a surprise visit to the Cardiothoracic Centre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, and appealed to striking doctors and workers to resume work.
He said the Government would address their concerns and appealed to the Hospital authorities to allow doctors at the Centre to make inputs into decisions that affected the running of the Centre. His visit comes a day after he met heads of departments of the centre at the Castle and asked for restraint in the agitation and urged them to go back to work.
Doctors and staff at the Cardiothoracic Centre on Monday embarked on a strike to protest against the termination of the appointment of Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the brain behind the establishment of the Centre.
Among other things, the doctors are demanding that the Centre was run as an autonomous body.
And in the interaction with the President, the doctors called for the maintenance of structures and tradition that had kept the Centre running since its inception.
President Mills acknowledged the invaluable contribution of the Centre to quality health delivery and asked the authorities and the doctors to reach an amicable solution so that the reputed quality service would not be negatively affected.
President Mills said their concerns would be considered and assured them that the necessary recognition to the learned heart surgeon would be given in addition to distinguished medical personnel, who had served the nation in other areas.
The doctors commended President Mills for the swift response to the crisis.
Among those present at the meeting were Prof. Seth Aryettey, Chairman of the Board of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, and Prof. Afua Hesse, Director of Medical Affairs of the Hospital.
Dr Lawrence Sereboe, Senior Cardiothoracic Surgeon, acted as spokesperson for the doctors.
Doctors and staff at the Centre on Monday suspended all elective operations and clinics, the first such action since its inauguration 22 years ago.
The Out-Patient Department was empty yesterday and no new cases were being seen. During a visit there, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) was informed that patients on admission are, however, being attended to.
The notices of suspension of work posted at the Centre were still visible.
The doctors and staff were said to have met on yesterday morning, but there is no word of the outcome of their deliberations.
Dr Frank Edwin, a cardio surgeon and spokesperson, said on Monday that, they had petitioned President Mills to revoke the decision of the Minister of Health, Mr Joseph Yiele Chireh, to terminate the appointment of Professor Frimpong-Boateng.
A letter signed by senior staff of the Centre on August 26, 2011 said the basis of the Minister’s decision was questioned by all Heads of Departments of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and also staff of the University of Ghana Medical School.
They said Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was directing the next generation of leaders at the Centre in an effort to expand the facility to manage the increased national and regional demands.
President Mills asked for restraint in the agitation and met staff of the Centre after receiving a full brief on the situation and considering the petition by doctors and staff.
An official statement issued by the Ministry of Information on Monday night after the meeting said President Mills directed the proper handing over of the administrative functions of the Centre by Dr Frimpong-Boateng within a month from August 29.
“The meeting, which was cordial and fruitful, was successful in clarifying the true import of the letter conveyed to Prof. Frimpong- Boateng on 24th August, 2011 by the Health Minister, Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh,” it added.
“While recognising the important role of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng in the establishment and growth of the NCC, President Mills emphasised that it was also imperative that the laws of Ghana were obeyed by all and that he was always mindful of his Oath to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.
“President Mills acknowledged that the transition process and the Minister of Health’s letter could have been better and assured all of his continuous commitment to building strong institutions, promoting the rule of law and ensuring quality health care for all citizens.”
The statement said it was agreed that what the letter should have conveyed was the need for Prof. Frimpong Boateng, now 62, to hand over as the administrative head of the Centre, having passed the compulsory retirement age of 60 in conformity with Article 199 of the 1992
The meeting also acknowledged that Prof. Frimpong-Boateng’s appointment in 2000 was “until further notice”, hence it was never intended to be a position for the preserve of any one person.
The statement said the doctors and staff of the NCC thanked President Mills for the swift response given to their petition.