09.11.2022 Opinion

Please Don’t Leave Us For Greener Pastures

By Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Some newly inducted doctorsSome newly inducted doctors
09.11.2022 LISTEN

ON SATURDAY, 29th October, 2022, 461 newly qualified medical and dental officers were inducted into the Medical and Dental Council (MDC) of Ghana at the Accra International Conference Centre. They were products of the University of Ghana, Accra; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi; the University for Development Studies (UDS), Tamale; and medical/dental officers trained overseas.

The Vice-Chancellor of KNUST and a large number of dignitaries from other universities graced the occasion.

In her address, a point passionately made by the chairperson and member of the board, Dr. Constance Addo-Yobo, and re-echoed by the Guest-of-Honour is the title of this article:

“Please Don't Leave Us For Greener Pastures!”
The new doctors were also told not to refuse postings to the districts, as going there affords them the opportunity to learn fast while being of service to those who need it most.

So, who took us to the Conference Centre? “Dr. Fiifi” did!

Before that, why the passionate appeal by both the Chairperson and the Guest-of-Honour to the young doctors not to leave Ghana?

Doctor To Patient Ratio
A quote attributed to the Minister of Health in the Wednesday, 16th June, 2021 edition of Daily Guide Network states;

“Doctor-population ratio (in Ghana) improved consistently over the last five years (2016-2020) from 1: 9,301 to 1: 6,355. However, this improvement falls short of the WHO standard of 1: 1,000.”

On 25th February, 2022, The Ghana News Agency (GNA) stated “the doctor patient ratio keeps widening in the Northern Region as statistics from the Ghana Health Service shows doctor-patient ratio in the region has increased from 1: 8,859 in 2020 to 1: 10,901 in 2021.”

On 5th August 2022, the Ghanaian Times stated “the doctor-patient ratio in Bono East has worsened from 1: 18,287 in 2020 to 1: 20,2021, Dr Fred Adomako-Boateng, the Bono East Regional Director of Health Services, has revealed!”

With these rather alarming statistics, is it any wonder that the chairperson, herself a health practitioner, appealed to the young doctors not to leave Ghana for greener pastures in countries which already have very good doctor-patient ratios of around 1:400?

She added sadly that the bulk of Ghana's doctors are concentrated in Accra-Tema and Kumasi with very few doctors in the districts. She advised the young doctors to accept postings to the districts.

Ma fe wo
It is against this backdrop of paucity of doctors in Ghana that the contribution of Ghana's first private medical school, the Family Health University Medical School, Teshie is commendable. Founded by Professor Enyonam Kwawukume and Dr. (Mrs.) Susu Kwawukume, the first batch of 30 doctors was inducted into the Medical and Dental Council in 2020. The second batch of 54 doctors was inducted in 2021.

Sharing their experiences on Joy TV during the week, Dr. Roseline Okoro of the 2020 class and Dr Simon Sackitey of the Class of 2021 gave very interesting accounts of their training, and gratitude to Family Health Medical School for shaping them into the calibre of doctors they are.

So, back to Fiifi!
In 2011, while on duty outside Ghana, my “Manager,” in a telephone chat with me said, “Dan, you will return home to meet a new son in our house.”

The new son I met on my arrival was Fiifi, a JSS One pupil of the Services Primary School, Burma Camp. Fiifi's parents lived at Kasoa. The daily commuting with his mother who worked/works at Burma Camp was taking its toll on Fiifi. This was when the Kaneshie-Kasoa road was being reconstructed.

Arriving home late, they had to get up around 4am to get ready for the journey to Burma Camp, often arriving late.

It is on the basis of this that my “Manager” who worked in the same office with Fiifi's mother decided that, he could come and live with us at Burma Camp.

After his secondary education at Mfantsipim School, Fiifi was admitted at KNUST as a medical student. He was one of the 461 medical/dental doctors inducted into the Medical and Dental Council on 29th October 2022.

For their induction, each new doctor was allowed only one invited guest into the Conference Centre for the ceremony. So, even for parents, only one was allowed inside. All other relations waited on the lawns outside. Fiifi was graduating with a Rwandese friend whose parents could not fly down. Fiifi's father thus had two tickets.

The couple decided the second ticket would come to me. All my protestations that the ticket should go to Fiifi's mother as a parent, were overruled by the couple, in spite of our democratic dispensation. Their decision was that the two men would support Fiifi and his Rwandese friend in the Conference Hall while the ladies waited outside for us.

The highlight of the induction was when all the doctors wore their white coats with their names proudly embossed on their chests, and took the Hippocratic Oath. There was a 15-minutes dancing session where the auditorium became a dancing floor for everyone. Music was provided by the Present King Youth Choir which regaled us with beautiful gospel music as we danced happily to the glory of God.

While I endorse the call by the Chairperson for the young doctors to accept postings to the districts, I recalled my November 2016 article titled “From Ghana? Why did Dr. Serebour send you here?”

This was a question asked a colleague when he went overseas for a heart surgery in the hospital Dr. Serebour of the Cardio-Thoracic Centre, Korle Bu, trained!  On his return home, he told Dr. Serebour about the incident. Yes, the doctor confirmed, and explained that, much as the skills to perform the surgery were/are available in Ghana, the equipment to do so was unavailable, hence the referral overseas!

Doctors have complained, after helplessly seeing patients die needlessly because of lack of equipment, they are forced to leave the country because those who should care, do not. They don't because they can be flown outside for the best of care in the best of hospitals!

In any case, who would want to serve where, in addition to rudimentary water/electricity supply, good schools for their children are unavailable, sixty-five years after independence?

For our rulers, again remember the quote by President Kennedy that, “If a civilised society cannot take care of the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

To Drs Fiifi, Akosua, Julius and their colleagues, the 461 new medical/dental doctors who took the Hippocratic Oath on Saturday, 29th October 2022, Congratulations!

Your induction into the Medical and Dental Council, Ghana is only the beginning of a long career ahead! Remember, people will come to you only when they are unwell and at their lowest. Be principled doctors and treat your patients with dignity, respect and humility!

Leadership, Lead!
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
BY Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)