The agenda setting theory of mass media has always supported the idea of using the media to control public opinion. Politicians world wide know about this and use it to their own advantage. Sadly, since access to mainstream traditional media is limited to just a few people, it turns out that the public opinion of a nation is always going to be set by them and the masses will have no choice but to follow it.
That’s why issues discussed on the various morning shows of the numerous radio stations many at times tend to fill the front and important pages of our newspaper and vice versa. This leads me to the main crux of this piece which is about the the response of the General secretary of the GMA, Dr. Frank Serebuor to the comments made by an NDC party sympathizer on HOT FM Yeboah Boateng,portions of which reads
“…is Dr Poku-Adusei who has risen through the ranks to become the President of GMA telling us that he doesn’t know what is in their contract? They should quit the job. We are tired of them. I am serious about what I am saying.”
He would later go on to imply that the doctors were doing this so they could redirect patients to their private clinics. Such a wild allegations.
And of course he was serious. As someone who sat on that show as a party representative, he knew too well how radio was a powerful tool to be used in pitching and inciting the public against the doctors who had suspended OPD services until their demands on conditions of service were ironed out with the government. To be fair to the GMA, the host of the show called Dr. Serebuor who registered his displeasure with comments such as ;
““..Tell that idiot in the studio that he is not the one who decides what we should do. We decide for ourselves what we should do. If he is tired of us, he can go anywhere and chew leaves which are also medicinal,”
Harsh huh? There’s no doubt the public might enjoy this type of sensational journalism. At the same time it’s worth noting that not all stations in Ghana would allow their platform to be used as a stage for such wild allegations by a politician and counters from a professional body as the GMA. Some presenters know how not to allow opinions to be confused with facts and where not to cross certain boundaries. They are the ones we must hail.
Soon after this dramatic encounter on radio the court of public opinion descended heavily on the doctors with the argument that he’s a doctor and should have kept his cool. Don’t doctors have emotions too? How about he being a doctor who is alert and knows of the intentions of the other to pitch them against public opinion?
Reading thorough the comment section of some news items on the feedback on the Outburst of Dr Frank Serebuor, some words Jump right at you often. These are: muderers, nation wreckers, criminals and even armed robbers. The same people hurling these insults forget that when they or their relatives fall sick, Doctors have sworn an oath to be by their sick beds and do whatever possible to save their lives including putting their own lives in danger. Sometimes, the mere presence of a doctor’s white coat and a gentle touch on patients could even lead to the latter regaining health. They have this psychological effect on all of us and we call them names?
Talking about risks,lots of things happen to doctors in the course of their life saving work that even the most creative story telling mind will be bereft of such ideas in their fictional accounts. They just don’t say it in the news so we think all is rosy.
Imagine this. After fetching human excreta with your hands as a doctor in assisting a patient, what are the chances of you even getting a normal appetite for dinner or lunch that day? In scooping blood and liquids from an HIV/ AIDS patient, what are the chances of you not being very very careful and exposing yourself to the risks that are involved? And in using your discretion as a doctor, what are the chances that you chances that you can get sued? In the West for instance, It is common knowledge how such gory scenes and surgeries have turned some doctors into addicts who depend on substances just to cope with what they do daily.
If the story of a medical doctor at a certain hospital being asked to pay GH 2000 whiles she is in labor at the same hospital she works does not move you about the conditions of service for doctors, then you need to take a seat. After you do, tell me how you would feel if your husband, wife, brother/sister, mother or father after schooling for about 13 years to become a doctor with a breakdown of
7 years of schooling to qualify as a doctor,
2 years of house job,
1 year as medical officer and 3 years of training to become a specialist in OBGYN in the case of Dr Fred) is violently attacked by a patient s/he’s helping with a syringe straight into his body with no caution. More so if that patient happened to be HIV positive and the syringe had just been used to set a line on the patient by the same doctor.
Yes, this happened in Ghana. This doctor and another who had contracted TB of the spine in the course of duty had to foot their own bills as there are no medical insurance for them and this insurance would have been part of the conditions of service. These are the people you and I are calling criminals simply because a section of the public is calling their demands for nothing but a mere conditions of service, a precursor to any serious working environment as outrageous.
Random conversations with some doctors about their conditions of service in this country will leave your jaws wide open for hours if you are told the truth. After working for over 9 years and being the only surgeon at his hospital where he works 24/7, Dr Frank ( not his real name) rides his bike to work since he has no car. He hears the “Enti doctor paa nie “slogans but cares more about saving life. Although he gets referrals from between 6-8 towns and can only have an off day when the weekend gets no emergency cases, his application to Barclays Bank for a car loan was denied on the basis that he works for a missionary hospital. Pathetic. Dr. Adu ( not his real name) Has worked for close to 9 years yet had his Salary blocked when he requested for a study leave with pay. So if both doctors are called at night and it’s raining, you can imagine.
The only car is reserved for the junior doctor on call so don’t even think about it. In almost a tearful voice, Dr. Frank told me quietly “While most family members shun their TB and HIV/AIDS positive relatives, I am forced to scoop blood from this patient while his relatives snored in bed. In the course of doing this if I accidentally get come into contact with this blood and get infected, there is no insurance for me and I have to deal with my problem. in line with my commitment to save lives and help my own country.”
As a country we need to realize that our doctor to patient ratio is still 1 to 10,000 and if we can’t take care of 3000 doctors we have now in our country, the thought of wooing the 1000 practicing in the USA to come home will continue to be a constant illusion that will take forever to realize as Doctor Kojo Nimako observed in telling us how hot the kitchen has been for doctors as well. If I had the power to influence public opinion my message would be…
By: Kingsley Antwi-Boasiako
The author is a doctoral student in Media Arts at Ohio University in Athens Ohio, USA.
Email: [email protected]