Just when I sat under the baobab tree thinking of how our country’s health sector challenges could be mitigated, my attention was drawn to the implementation of yet another campaign promise of the ruling government. Trainee nurses allowance has been restored amid funfair.

At first I didn’t want to make public my thought but arguments and counter arguments on the subject matter couldn’t support my quiescence. Events have unfolded and some of us have taken an unwavering understanding that technocrats do not manage our health sector but the politician. For instance, questions posed by readers on ministry of health Facebook page as to when a particular group of unemployed government and privately trained nurses will be posted received a response as: “it is for the politicians to decide.” Wow

My friend and a fine writer posted his nicely written queen’s language suggesting reasons necessitating the restoration of the trainee allowance and had me tagged to the post on his wall. Basically my friend had suggested that, during clinical sessions which formed part of the training of nurses, trainees incur additional cost on travelling and self-care “some of these allowance will enable them cater for their travelling and ‘self care needs’ whilst undergoing the clinical training on/off campus”. He also sorts to suggest that trainee nurses were used as supplement for professionals to get the work done and needed to be compensated. “if nursing students do not work in hospitals health assistants (nonprofessional) and “ward aids” have to be recruited to do the work that these students carryout. You know how much that cost”

The justification for the restoration given his analogy is a rather sagging one which I honestly believe that but for political meander my friend will never condone with such oversimplified way of solving our social problems.

Firstly why will anyone think that students should be compensated for learning or motivate them to do the work of trained nurses sitting home unemployed when same resources could be used to recruit the backlog of professional nurses sitting home and rusting their skills?
Are we suggesting that we could not resource our training schools to bus students to their clinical sites? Can we not make student loan accessible to them especially as they are becoming tertiary institutions so that more pressing needs such as under resourced demonstration/skills labs could be well resourced?

Other contributors had suggested that the restoration of the allowance is necessary as it will result in the quota system and by this, fewer students will be admitted and the quality of nursing profession redeemed. They cited some examples to suggest that the cancellation of the allowance had resulted in the influx of all manner of people including those with poor academic background parading themselves as nurses. This they say were the reasons for the sudden poor public image on nurses. This logic is rather wacked as currently any practicing nurse once enjoyed the trainee allowance or was trained at the university or private school and was not entitled to any allowance. The only group which never enjoyed the allowance are still home waiting for the outcome of their professional exams. In any case couldn’t we have introduced the quota system and focus on the ‘quality’ without necessarily restoring this allowance?

Might you think my worry for the restoration of the allowance, here is why.
The health sector in its current state is the definition of challenges. It is overwhelmed by poor or inadequate resources including human and infrastructural resources and it should be mind boggling for anyone to think that health sector budget could be reserved for the payment of nursing trainees at a time that people desire to pay for their training, at a time that during the same time the restoration of the allowance was been launched, a group of nurses were picketing to have them posted? At a time that some 5,000 plus privately trained nurses were blatantly denied employment? At a time that you are sent to our referral centers to go sit (in some plastic chair) receiving specialist care, at a time that you could roam the entire of Accra looking for a bed in a hospital to be attended too by specialist physician?

Must we pay trainee nurses and after graduation they are left to rust their skills? Trainee allowance at this stage is the least of our problem considering the array of challenges on the health sector.

If government’s intent for implementing these weird and populist policies is preparatory antics for winning elections, then you can as well implement free makeups policy for all women. After all you will still get people to defend such actions.

For God and Country

Awiagah Sherrif Kwame

About Kwame Sherrif | Columnist

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