COVID-19 contact tracers in Ashanti Region have laid down their tools over a reduction in their daily stipends.
In an interview on Accra-based Citi FM on Friday June 12, 2020, Spokesperson for the group, Dawud Ibrahim, indicated that they had laid down their tools for about a week.
The story has been carried by other news portals such as graphic.com, modernghana.com and thepublisheronline.com amongst others.
According to Dawud, during their training for the exercise, they were told to wait for the president to announce how much they were going to be paid for their daily allowances.
One hundred and fifty Ghana Cedis was paid for the first month as promised, according to Mr. Dawud.
However, after being asked to suspend their services after the first month, the 200 contact tracers were slashed to a little over 100 when they were recalled.
After rendering a 36-day service for the government, they were called to receive GHC 70.00 instead of GHC 150.00 as their daily allowance.
Ibrahim continued that a query to the District Health Directorate revealed the reduction had come from officials at the regional level, who also attributed it to national level.
Whilst explaining the issue on Citi FM’s Eyewitness News, the Ashanti Regional Health Director, Dr Emmanuel Tenkorang was alleged to have asked the aggrieved contact tracers to “leave the job if they can’t take the 70 cedis” according to host, Umaru Sanda Amadu.
The dilemma, as to whether the reduction of the allowance was orchestrated by government or the Ashanti Regional Health Directorate and whether there was proper communication before the reduction or not, is what fact-checkghana.com seeks to establish.
Explanation: During his third address to the nation on COVID-19 on Sunday, April 5, 2020, President Akufo-Addo promised a daily allowance of GHC 150.00 to the contact tracers who are helping the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in tracing and testing people who might have come into contact with some infected persons.
This was part of an insurance package government set aside to cushion health officials at the forefront of Ghana’s fight against the novel coronavirus disease in the country.
The Ashanti Region currently has the second highest number of covid-19 cases in the country, placing second to the Greater Accra Region.
A memo from the Coalition of Contract Tracers to the President posted by graphic.com, cited by fact-checkghana.com states, “Mr President, we are writing again to inform you that we are still gravely aggrieved [and] we still do not understand that steep slash in our daily allowances from the initially announced by you on the 5th of April 2020”.
The memo also states, “We do not understand why the month of May should be any different from the month of April. We do not understand why there are disparities and inconsistencies across the region”.
“This second letter is necessitated due to the strange and surprising silence from your office and government with regards to our previous letter dated 4th of June 2020”, the memo adds.
Furthermore, the memo indicates, “It is strange because no one would expect this silence in abnormal times like this. For your information, Mr. President, contact tracers in the Ashanti region have not been working since 2nd of June 2020 till date.
It concludes by saying, “Mr. President, as we suggested earlier, we would like to hear from your office or from one of your ministers at the Daily Ministerial Press briefing on the above issue. Thank you as we wait anxiously in anticipation of a response to our grievances”.
The Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Badu Sarkodie, has told fact-checkghana.com in a telephone interview that, the GHS has contact tracers they’ve been working with over the years.
However, during the lockdown, they needed more hands which necessitated the engagement of extra volunteers.
Dr. Aboagye adds that the GHS, after the first critical month of the lockdown, decided to add a reasonable stipend to their already paid staff to supplement their contact tracing effort which might have led to the reduction of the allowances.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Director of Public Health in the Ashanti Region, Dr. Yaw Ofori Yeboah, has explained to fact-checkghana.com that, they were unable to tell them “you are going to work for two days or whatever, but after the initial lockdown, Ashanti region instead of over 350 [contact tracers], some of the sectors requested for the services so we agreed to let them hold on 110 of them”
He added that “all the managers were informed that they are to be given GHC 50.00 a day and GHC 20.00 transport making GHC 70.00 and this fund was going to come from the respective districts’ own common fund”.
Dr. Yeboah further asserts the possibility that, “maybe, in one or two districts, the communication wasn’t effective enough, and that’s a local problem, which obviously if that’s the case, is regrettable”.