Health sector faces crisis
The health sector faces a crisis situation as a result of exodus of health professionals from the country to foreign nations.
The Director, Human Resources for Health Development of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Yaw Antwi-Boasiako, who stated this in an interview said, it is projected that the country could loose about 2,832 of such health professionals by the year 2006.
He said last year alone about 662 health personnel comprising 60 doctors, 363 general nurses and 239 pharmacists left the country to seek greener pastures abroad.
"The departure of such health professionals cost the country a total amount of US$ 8.72 million in training cost and constituted a drain on national economy and affected the development of the health sector," he said.
Dr Antwi Boasiako said Ghana is losing so much and the loss is from training costs alone.
"In fact it excludes all other costs from the secondary schools and other family expenses incurred in their training," he said.
Giving some statistics to support his assertions, Dr Antwi-Boasiako said at the beginning of 2001, there were a total of 1600 doctors in both public and private practice throughout the country.
"In the course of the year, 60 of them left for overseas and this cost the country US$ 3.6 million in training. It is anticipated that if the trend continues, 408 doctors will leave the country by 2006 and the cost to the country in training loss will be US$ 24.4 million," he said.
He said there were about 7,031 general nurses in both public and private health institutions throughout the country at the beginning of last year.
Dr Antwi-Boasiako said 363 left for greener pastures in other countries and the loss in training cost to the country stood at US$ 1.3 million.
He said if the trend continues, 1,833 general nurses might leave the country in the next five years and the projected loss thereof will be US$ 7.9 million in training costs to the tax payer.
He emphasised that pharmacists are leaving the country in very large numbers than all other health professionals, but not much noise is being made about the situation, because their departure is not felt as much as that of doctors and nurses.
The director said at the beginning of 2001, there were 1,136 pharmacists in the country. Out of the number 239 left, costing the country US$ 3.82 million in training costs.
Dr Antwi-Boasiako said if the current trend continues, it is projected that 591 pharmacists would leave the shores of Ghana by 2006 and their departure would cost the country US$ 19.98 million.
He said, "We are in a crisis state as far as the desertion of well trained and highly skilful health personnel from the country is concerned and we must be able to initiate measures to retain them after training them at very high cost."According to Dr Antwi-Boasiako, the cost of loosing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health related professionals are more than the cost of retaining them.
"Supposing we pay all the 1,600 doctors US$ 2,000 monthly, which by all standards would be mouthwatering, the cost of retaining all of them would be US$ 3.2 million while the cost of training the only 60 doctors that left the country last year stood at US$ 3.6 million," he said.
He said Nigeria for instance has appreciably improved the remuneration for her doctors, which has resulted in the return of all Nigerian doctors previously in the country.
Dr Antwi-Boasiako said we are in a global market where the forces of demand and supply act as a pull and push factor on doctors as well other health personnel and therefore the exodus of those professionals cannot be stopped.
He said, "we have to be proactive and put in measures that would reduce to the barest minimum, the brain drain, if not curtail outright."