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08.01.2022 Opinion

Medical Education In Ghana, The Preserve Of The Rich And Privileged

By Desmond Apenteng
Medical Education In Ghana, The Preserve Of The Rich And Privileged
08.01.2022 LISTEN

Many continue to question the attitude medical professionals display at work these days and continue to wonder if the profession is still a calling for those who desired to serve their fellow men and women on their sick beds as it was in the days of Hippocrates and other forebears of medicine.

Growing up, I had the impression that, to become a medical Doctor you need to be the most brilliant kid until I got to Australia in the year 2003 I completed Bsc. nursing in one of the prestigious Universities in Ghana with Second Class Lower after several years of struggle due to financial constraints. After completion I sat for the NMC licensing exams and passed but had to relocate to that country with the help of uncle Ato Akorful who was residing there for over 15 years. Arriving in Australia I decided to rekindle my childhood ambitions of becoming a Medical Doctor. I discussed it with Uncle Ato and he assured me of his support so I applied to Western Sydney University the following year. To my surprise I had admission to the School in the year 2007. The mode of teaching and learning in that country was modest, practical and interesting. In short I had a wonderful experience as a medical undergraduate student in that country and now a proud Physician Specialist which would never have happened if I had remained in Ghana.

Whiles these developed countries continue to preserve medical training for the average and dedicated students willing to save lives, and preserving engineering for the most brilliant kids, we in Africa where patient to Doctor ratio remains very high with maternal and child mortality always skyrocketing. Not to talk of the unmet MDG goals, we decided to adopt the opposite.

I have also been told of how Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory used taxpayers money and fully funded training of Doctors both in and outside Ghana in his days. I will also not forget the late Jerry John Rawlings and former President John Mahama who in their quest to improve patient to Doctor ratio in Ghana, decided to send many Ghanaians to Cuba to be trained as medical Doctors and nurses. Many of those trained in the days played and are still playing various roles in the Ghana’s health sector to improve healthcare delivery.

It will interest readers to know that the story has changed, medical education in Ghana today has become the preserve of the rich and privileged with foreign students especially Nigerians dominating the schools many of who leave the country after training, thanks to the greed of the Authorities paid with our taxes to manage the schools. The entry requirement to our medical schools have changed from good grades and willingness to save human life to ability to pay the fees and whom you know. Today its either you have a presidential protocol or have a good bank statement and willing to pass on a brown envelope filled with cash. In fact you must prove your ability to pay the exorbitant fees charged by the schools before the likes of University Ghana Medical school will sell forms for their Graduate entry program to you. One wonders if governments over the years have stopped sponsoring medical education in the country because we have enough Doctors or its the greed and corruption that has eaten into the moral fabric of Authorities paid with our taxes to manage the schools.

Readers would wonder what monies collected by the schools are really used for, since Government still pays the lecturers teaching in the schools whiles students unlike in the days of Nkrumah, buy their books and other items needed for their training

Though we are made to believe the kids needed to make straight As in the secondary school exams in order to qualify for admission to the schools the reality on the campuses is different.

I personally had to engage five private teachers for my daughter months after he secured admission to one of the prestigious SHS in Central Region and paid them termly.

I went ahead and set up a personal library for her. She was a child I so much loved and wanted her to follow my steps. She was a brilliant kid so with the help of these teachers the child got selected to represent that school in the 2019 National Maths and Science quiz competition where their team put up an outstanding performance. It was not surprising when She completed SHS and scored straight As.

I made her apply to University of Ghana Medical School and KNUST Medical schools same year just to ensure she doesn’t miss her chance of getting admission to a medical School.

Then came the shock of my life where I was exposed to what it really takes to get admission to a medical school in Ghana.

The child had a notification from University of Ghana Medical School alerting her of an entrance exams scheduled 3 days from the day of the notification and was made to pay GHC150 for the exams. She reported for the exams, took part and was shortlisted for an interview. She went for the interview and was asked if she has any member of the family who has ever been a medical Doctor and how she intends to finance her medical education? She answered the dad is a Physician Specialist. She was later asked how she got selected as National Maths and Science Quiz contestant and She answered. Then She was discharged and told “congratulations you will hear from us" but was never called.

Then came later a call from KNUST inviting her for an interview. She went for the interview and was successful but was admitted as a fee paying student. I went out to pay the fees 3 days later and was told by the cashier that the payment is not going through because the admission number on the provisional admission letter had been inactivated. I called the school only to be told because I delayed in paying the fees within 24 hours of issuance of the admission, the slot was given to another applicant.

When i called the school of Medicine KNUST to enquire why such a development, I was told they had a lot of applications and had issued too many provisional admissions that year and many had paid so their classrooms are full and cannot take any more child.

At this point I decided to started making calls to friends in politics who I think can help. Eventually i was linked to one powerful man in the country who promised to help. Few days to matriculation my daughter had admission as a regular medical student not fee paying as stated in the previous admission letter. Her fees had reduced from over GHC 11,000 to GHC1,900 and i paid. She got to the school and to her surprise, her class is full of Nigerians and other Ghanaians whose SHS results cannot be compared to her’s yet I had to go extra miles to get her admission to the school.

Then I remembered what a friend told me about his experience. This guy completed University of Ghana Nursing School with first class and applied for graduate entry medicine in same school. He went for the interview and was asked, being a nurse and now coming to do medicine, where will his loyalty be if he becomes a medical Doctor and he replied his loyalty will be with his new profession. This was the only question he was asked yet he was denied admission. He has since given up his ambition of becoming a medical doctor and working with a foreign IT firm.

I recently saw a provisional result slip of a Youngman who happened to represent Bishop Herma College in the 2020 National maths and science quiz competition of which the guy had straight As yet was unable to gain admission to UGM and KNUST medical schools, thanks his old students who contributed to pay his fees, he is currently a student at the department of pharmacy at the KNUST doing Doctor of pharmacy.

The exorbitant fees charged by the medical schools alone is enough to make any poor but brilliant Ghanaian child with the calling to be come a medical doctor to rethink and opt for marketing instead. The story is not too different from those seeking admission to nursing and Physician Assistant training schools where students pay fees in excess of GHC5000 (FOR GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS) and GHC6000 or more per annum for private schools (accommodation exclusive).

I recently advised a friend to consider sending his son to a private medical school other than public if he seriously want the child to become a medical Doctor. Checks revealed the schools are charging between $10,000 (GHC 65, 000) to $12,000 (GHC78, 000) as fees annually excluding accommodation fees and the schools are more interested in Bank statement of financiers of the students other than their academic qualifications and their calling into the medical profession.

Readers at this point might be wondering what the exact requirements for admission into our medical schools are and if the issue of inadequate classrooms is factual.

Many Youngmen and women in an attempt to avoid these frustrations as regards admission to Ghanaian medical schools, decided to travel outside to train and on return write licensing exams supervised by the Medical and Dental Council of Ghana. Each of the applicants who sit for this exams is made to pay over GHC4,000 as exams fees of which many are failed at the end though most of these students studied in countries with more advanced medical facilities and robust teaching tools and more experience teachers, so why are they failing the exams?

Could it be that there is a cartel that is making sure that Ghana does not have enough Doctors so to maintain the status quo and to ensure we continue to praise the few Doctors in the system at the disadvantage of the poor Ghanaian?

It will interest readers to know that most of the foreign train Doctors who relocate to other countries do perform excellently in those countries and are saving lives, whiles we in Ghana continue to cry for inadequate number of Doctors with the consistently high maternal and child mortality rates with unmet MDGs goals, so what exactly is our problem as a nation?

We have inadequate classrooms and learning materials in our medical schools to admit qualified Ghanaian child but same schools are admitting Nigerians and other foreign nationals who we train with our resources after which they leave for their respective countries.

The health profession is no more a calling but a preserve of the rich and privileged in Ghana it is the reason why that surgeon you visited the last time will not want to give you a listening ear unless you are able to pay the GHC10,000 he is charging as cost of your surgery.

It is the same reason why your gynecologist decided to charge you GHC3,000 for that cesarean section though you presented your NHIS card at the hospital.

The same reason why the Doctor you went to see the last time instructed his nurse not to bring him more than 20 folders of which you missed out and had to return home

The reasons listed above are some of the reasons why that newly qualified Doctor has refused to be posted to Kpandai Health post but would prefer to be in the cities.

Same reason why that Doctor at the Cardio Thoracic centre in Korlebu will decide to Charge that poor boy with hole in heart GHC70,000 as cost of his surgery such that the parents had to seek help from the public throw TV3 in order to raise the money for the surgery

It is these same reasons why most Doctors would prefer to create artificial traffic at surgical and maternity wards so they can transfer unsuspecting patients to their private hospitals so to make additional income. If you think this is lie just pay a visit to Asamakese Government hospital, Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital at Mampong Akuapem, the almighty Korlebu teaching Hospital, KATH, etc and see for yourself.

It is the same reason why most Doctors at our district hopitals will decide to spend all the working hours at the theatre where they pocket every pesewa they collect from every patient they operate on (eg. Akim Oda Government Hospital) whiles leaving work at the OPD for Physician Assistants who often become overburden with workload yet paid peanuts at the end of the month because they did not attend medical schools.

It is my hope the powers that be will take steps to tackle the rot in the health system starting with the training institutions

Lets be citizen and not spectators. God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.

By...... DESMOND APPENTENG

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