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Members of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has called for the review of labour laws to grant mothers six months of maternity leave and a mandatory establishment of nurseries in all public and private institutions.
They said exclusive breastfeeding among all working nursing mothers be encouraged and health facilities in the country be made to ensure that they are baby friendly.
These were contained in communiqué issued and signed by the GMA President Dr Kwabena Opoku-Adusei and General Secretary Dr Frank Serebour at the end of the 54th annual general conference of the Association held at Cape Coast.
The four-day conference which was attended by more than 500 medical doctors and other paramedics across the nation was under the theme: “Improving under five survival in Ghana Challenges and the way forward”.
The communiqué noted that given the proven benefits of six months of exclusive breastfeeding to newborns the GMA calls for an increase in the current three months maternity leave to six months, stressing that it was especially relevant as some mothers are asked to start their maternity leave six weeks prior to delivery.
It said the lack of nurseries in institutions of work to allow nursing mothers to breastfeed infants during their breastfeeding breaks was negatively impacting efforts at ensuring that all newborns are exclusively breastfed resulting in the use of formula feeds which may be expensive and cumbersome to prepare leading to the loss of all the health benefits of breast milk.
It said given the current under five mortality rate of 80 deaths per 1000 live births and the country’s target of 40 deaths per 1000 lives by 2015 it was imperative for all stakeholders , policy makers, managers, development partners and health professionals to rededicate themselves to improve care for children under five , adding that the improved care must span the entire continuum of care from conception through delivery and post period to the fifth year of life.
“With 40% of under five deaths and 60% on infant deaths happening in the neonatal age group it is important for all stakeholders to pay more attention to newborns that are dying primarily from neonatal sepsis, prematurity and asphyxia” it added
The communiqué also called on doctors to take a more proactive leadership role whether as clinicians or as public health physicians through the adoption of a system approach to improve under five care through the engagement of frontline professionals to generate innovative and cost effective change ideas to improve upon under five care.
On the unresolved post single spine migration issues, the members said the GMA would engage the media and the public actively in sensitizing them on the various issues relating to the non resolution of the outstanding matters of the Single Spine pay policy despite submitting to the National Labour commission(NLC) for compulsory arbitration almost a year now.
It said the GMA was losing confidence in the NLC since it appeared to lack the capacity to resolve the issues relating to the Market premium, Conversion Difference and other related post migration issues on the SSPP.
The communiqué cautioned that if by the end of the 2012 elections the issues still remain unresolved, whichever government gets elected will be given a two-week window period after which the GMA will put in motion a series of action that may disturb the industrial harmony in the health sector.
It expressed concern about the astronomical increases in retention fees by the Ghana Medical and Dental Council stressing that the sudden increment of 150% of retention fees of medical practitioners for the year 2013 over the current rates be reviewed downwards.
It said the Council should pursue their subvention from government instead of financially over burdening the practitioners and urged the GMA members to hold on with any payment of retention fees till the matter was amicably resolved between the MDC and GMA.
The GMA also added its voice to call for peace before in the upcoming general elections “we want to reiterate that the GMA is a non partisan Association and our action and advocacy programmes are done in the best interest of Ghanaians and members, we urge all political actors to ensure peaceful and violence free election.”
It expressed its condolence at the loss of lives in the recent Achimota Melcom disaster and wished the survivors a speedy recovery while congratulating the emergency services for the gallant efforts at helping all individuals involved.