The striking doctors want to be paid better but the government of Ghana is working to abide by the strict terms imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for US$918 million aid it received. The IMF wants the public sector wages to gulp only 35% of tax revenues, but at present, it stands at 50-55%, which is down from the 70% of three years ago but still far off the IMF target.

Since the doctors went on strike 17 days ago, the HISPAG report says 500 people have died. The figure is believed to be a conservative estimate as many deaths in rural communities are said to be unreported. Many of the deaths, according to the report, could have been avoided because they occurred while the patients were being transported from one hospital to another due to the absence of doctors.

HISPAG said even its facilities now have shortage of essential drugs because of the $12.5 million debt it is being owed by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIS) for services provided to NHIS subscribers by HISPAG members over the past six months.

The HISPAG findings and statement was disclosed by its executive secretary, Mr Frank Richard Thorblu, who described the situation as a national crisis, and said they intend to appeal to the government to bring in Cuban doctors in the interim to run government hospitals to save lives while negotiations with doctors continue.

Ghana goes to the polls next year to elect a new government and the doctors’ strike puts pressure on the incumbent President John Dramani Mahama.