A letter from a Doctor who left Ghana to work in the UK

A Ghanaian doctor who is working in the UK has disclosed that more junior doctors are planning to leave Ghana amidst the harsh conditions they work under coupled with the non-payment of their salaries.

Below is a letter from a Doctor who left Ghana to work in the UK.

Honestly, honestly…sometimes I really wonder why I hope and wish that Ghana could get better when we continue to propagate the same stupidity.

I completed medical school 9 years ago and this exact same problem was the norm. WHY? Why is it that every year we have to struggle with salary issues? One day you are told “financial clearance”. The next, it’s “biometric details”. There is always some excuse and it really doesn’t make sense!

I got an appointment in a hospital in the UK. The appointment came 2 weeks before I had to leave. When I arrived and submitted my documents and started working, PROMPTLY, at the end of month one, there was my salary. And ever since, it has come on time—last Thursday of the month. The Brits always ask me why I always look happy while working and never seem to complain. They don’t know how exciting it is to experience ‘order’!

There was a time I was so patriotic. I used to dream about what I could do to serve my country and leave my name etched in the history books. I wrote down a plan for a special charity hospital. Today, all I think about is NUMBER 1.

We are thrown into the job day 1 and it’s a very difficult job from scratch. I’ve seen colleagues collapse while working. I’ve missed lunch many times because I had to attend to a patient and when I made it to the canteen, it was closed. You chastise a patient for poor eating habits but are forced to eat at odd hours and scavenge on fast food many a time. When I started working in surgery, it was worse. getting home after 11pm each night and back at work at 7am. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We cry about brain drain…I used to spite my colleagues who left the country an never came back. But now I understand. If you want to live and live well, maybe Ghana isn’t the right place. A junior doctor in the UK earns 5 times what the Ghanaian does. He can only work 40 hours a week and that is seriously monitored. Any overtime gets paid as an extra. There are so many days off sometimes I think they could get lazy. In Ghana, I used to work about 70 hours a week on the average and earn 20% of what I could?

Trust me, you will be seeing another exodus of doctors soon. I’ve spoken to many young doctors and I shudder at how they are seeking avenues to practice in the UK, US, SA and even Australia. (Yes…that far!). And why not? In a country where there are not enough specialists, you are being asked to pay fees for residency under the threat of having your salary stopped. The fees are 2-3x your salary. In the UK you get an allowance to go on training courses. In the US, you are encouraged to get into residency as soon as you complete medical school. You think you will see Ghanaian doctors staying in Ghana?

Maybe there is no money and we don’t want to tell the truth.