I have read the brilliant piece entitled Cuban Doctors and doctors’
strike, Daily Graphic, Saturday 11th May 2013 by my friend and colleague
Dr. Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey. As usual, perceptive, clear but a bit too restricted by
what I will call his professional prejudices and a good deal of historical
Dr. Sodzi’s most perspicacious paragraphs are seven and eight
in which he addressed the historically and what I will describe as class
blinded elitist approach to the training of doctors in this country. “What stop
us (Ghanaians) when every year, only a tiny fraction of high grade applicants gain
admission to Ghanaian medical schools?” Dr. Sodzi’s question was if the Cubans
“can train many doctors (and) swap their expertise for oil imports from
Venezuela, what stops Ghana from same” (?). The answer to this question is
The history of training doctors in Ghana is replete with
amazing misconduct and professional myopia on the part of members of the
medical profession. When Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in line with his passion
for giving meaning to our independence decided to found a medical school, he
was met with opposition from the usual elitist political opponents. ‘We cannot
attain the standards our students gain in Britain or Europe’. For those who
remember history, it took the courage of Dr. Baidoo and Dr. Easmon to assure
the Osagyefo that Ghana can produce doctors locally. The pioneer teachers of
this medical school have all walked gloriously into history. The program was
first class and its products were superb. But there were problems.
The first was the kidnapping of the entire medical school by
an elite corp of “respectable” families and their network of relatives whose
children were given preferential admission into it. This is a known fact. Other
students who came with unknown family names were not accepted though their
school results were excellent.
Secondly, the elite admission board’s insistence on a
mythical set of grades for entry into the medical school flies in the face of
the actual academic preparation required to be a doctor. There cannot be anything
as high-grade about medical education for it not to allow entry to students
with above average passes in the requisite subjects. Dr Sodzi correctly asks: “why
can’t we train 1500 doctors every year?” Well, my answer is this; yes, we can
if the system of admissions is intelligently “democratized” by giving the
chance to thousands of students who with good passes are condemned to go and do
botany and pharmacy or something else. Clearly, a good average B in the
sciences should admit a student into medical school.
Thirdly, Dr. Sodzi seems to believe that the Cubans are ready
made for services in the rural areas. He is absolutely right. The Cuban medical
training program orients its products for service in the poor and rural
communities. The question is how many Ghanaian doctors have been produced since
our medical school was founded? And what percentage of those trained at taxpayers’
expense are working in Ghana and of these what is the percentage in rural
hinterlands? Let the Ghana Medical Association or someone produce the statistics.
Dr. Sodzi, usually perceptive in his views misses the point
completely when in his last paragraph he flogs the question of Medical and
Dental Council Examinations that are mandatory for Ghana trained doctors but
not, apparently for Cuban doctors.
History will recall the uproar that went up when Osagyefo Dr.
Kwame Nkrumah sought to train doctors in the Eastern Europe and USSR medical
schools in the 1960s. I believe Dr. Sodzi must have heard of these happenings. The
uproar came from the same mindless elitist opposition as if in those countries
doctors are not produced to serve in their communities. As always, Osagyefo Dr.
Kwame Nkrumah was way ahead. A few of the trained doctors returned home before
1966. As soon as the dismal right-wing pro-imperialist coup succeeded, the
elite medical establishment with their gun-men now in power decreed
examinations for all returning doctors. This obvious ideological examination is
still being demanded as our people die of common ailments which medical
assistants can help alleviate. Dr. Sodzi’s brilliant piece betrays the worst
snobbery of this neo-colonial posture.
My friend and colleague Dr. Sodzi must know what exactly
happens in our medical profession, the quackery, the criminal conduct and the
blatant abuse of the ethics of the profession that is pervasive. So it cannot
be that the Cuban doctors’ work does not measure to the highest “Ghanaian
professional standards”. As at now, the Ghanaian patients who are victims to the whims and caprices of
an obviously politicized and self-bloated Medical Association is more at home
with the Cuban doctor with little English but enormous humanity ready to serve.
The writer is Regional Director of
Health Services, Upper East Region (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)