Dr. Erasmus Agongo, Eastern Regional Director of Health Services, announced that the region recorded 98 maternal deaths in 2008 as against 146 in 2007.
He said even though there was a significant decline in maternal deaths in the region, it was still unacceptable because the Millennium Development Goals required that maternal deaths were reduced from the current 98 to around 30 in 2015.
On HIV infections, Dr. Agongo said sentinel prevalence survey results showed a decline from 7.9 per cent in 2002 to 4.2 per cent in 2007.
Dr. Agongo said Tuberculosis (TB) was also a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the region adding that with the emergence of HIV/AIDS, the two diseases were fuelling each other's progression and spread thereby militating against control efforts.
He said the priority strategies implemented in 2008 to address the health problems included scaling up the high impact rapid delivery (HIRD) strategy; intensifying the integrated disease surveillance and control, especially malaria, HIV and TB, safe motherhood and newborn care.
Others included accidents and emergency care and quality assurance; regenerative health and nutrition programme, implementing the National Health Insurance Scheme as a major source of health financing for clinical services, and scaling up the Community based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) strategy.
Dr. Agongo said a major challenge militating against the achievement of some of the set goals was shortage of professional staff that made it difficult to provide the full range of services in some hospitals and health centres.
He said “For instance, number of medical assistants decreased from 53 in 2007 to 46 last year; the number of nurse anaesthetists decreased from 22 in 2007 to 19 in 2008”.
Dr. Agongo mentioned health financing as another problem and said inadequate budgetary allocation to the sector as well as the unpredictable release of government funds compromised the execution of many health programmes.
He said “The delays in the reimbursements of hospitals and health centres by the district health insurance scheme are crippling most of these institutions and unless something is done urgently about it some of them will not be able to continue providing services”.
Dr. Agongo said as at December last year, the schemes was indebted to health institutions in the region to the tune of over seven million Ghana cedis”.
Mr. Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, the Regional Minister, commended the Regional Directorate of Health Services on the success chalked in the areas of maternal and infant mortality, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.
He, however, asked the directorate to intensify its public education and advocacy on healthy life styles and environmental sanitation to improve the health of the people.
About 200 delegates including health managers from all the 21 districts in the region and development partners, were attending the four-day conference under the theme “Strengthening Maternal and Child Health through Partnership and Quality care”.