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09.09.2005 Health

The Sad Story of the Health Sector in Ghana

Tsikata, P.Y.
The Sad Story of the Health Sector in Ghana

It is still unfathomable that at the ripe age of 82 the octogenarian, Professor John Quarter, could still devote himself to the course he took the 'Hippocratic Oath' to serve so many years ago. He died in line of duty and indeed a true patriot.

Other equally devoted members of his team who also perished with him: Dr. Isaac Bentsi and Benjamin Osei Wiafe, both of the Urology Department of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital have equally lived and died in the 'pure and holy way'. They died in the service of mankind and the nation Ghana. Our hearts go out to their families and dedicated colleagues they have left behind.

One thing is however very mollifying but never a replacement for the irreplaceable. The news to the effect that there is a package in the offing that is to see the names and selfless images of these individuals immortalized at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. Their names shall forever remain in the annals of this country as announced by the Chief Executive of the hospital, Professor Frimpong Boateng.

As we mourn these fallen heroes whose death is not only a disaster to their respective families and the departments they served but the nation as a whole, we need to reflect and take stock of our individual and collective actions and inactions as a nation in order to redefine our goals as a nation.

It is incredible that at the ripe age of 82, an age at which most people in the advanced countries will be confined to care homes receiving the maximum care, Professor Quarter could still go on an out-reach programme to save fellow countrymen suffering in the pangs of ill health, and more so on voluntary basis. It is selflessness beyond reason.

The late professor Quartey and his colleagues have demonstrated to us in no small way that there is nothing more satisfying than to commit oneself to the service of humanity-'For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?'

Contrary to this selfless devotion, doctors are up in arms again against the government at a time when the nation is mourning their fallen colleagues who perished doing what every Ghana should be doing to advance our course as a nation. It is sad.

This commentary should not be misconstrued as an attempt to hold breath for the government for what the state legitimately owes these hardworking health professionals who are doing duties meant for three or more staff due to the shortfall in their numbers.

Barely a week after the government handed over of 565 vehicles the Ministry of Health for distribution to health professionals, the GMA issued an ultimatum to the government to take steps to clear arrears it owes it members in the payment of the Additional Duty Hour Allowance (ADHA).

For whatever reason, the deadline given by the GMA could not be met. This is in contravention of the memorandum of understanding between the government and the GMA towards the payment of the ADHA, which should not be in arrears for more than one month and has led to the current stalemate between the government and the GMA.

But even as government failed to obviate the need for this strike action, it would have been a great honour to starve off the strike action until the burial of these fallen heroes.

The strike action has exacerbated the already crisis situation the health sector is facing due to the massive brain drain, and the death of trio has led to the suspension of genitor-urinary surgery at the Korle-Bu teaching hospital.

Dependent on ad hoc solutions to solve problems related to the health sector cannot continue indefinitely. The opportunity is at hand now to open a national debate on the issues concerning the health sector in a bid to find a lasting solution.

Lets consider the fact that the ADHA alone is now in the region of $90 million for the year 2005 and $215.51 million since its inception and we go begging the world Bank and the IMF for loans sometimes less than these figures to carry out development projects.

Year ADHA Cost (Million USD) 1999 $1.52 2000 $7.86 2001 $14.05 2002 $25.45 2003 N/A 2004 $79.67 2005 $88.96

As negotiations are underway to clear the arrears the state owes health workers in the payment of the ADHA, it is necessary to consider the long-term sustainability of the ADHA as it is growing astronomically.

The brain drain and the ADHA are huge barriers to our way forward now as a nation and the most vulnerable will continue to pay the price not only financially but with their lives. A stitch in time saves nine.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.