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31.10.2005 Health

Health Minister calls for teamwork to move sector forward

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Accra, Oct. 31, GNA - Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, on Monday called for a better harmonisation of work and synchronisation of efforts by all stakeholders in the health sector to efficiently move the sector forward.

"As a team, we stand a better chance of improving the health status of our people more rapidly than as discrete entities," he said. Major Quashigah made the call when he opened a summit of the health sector and its partners to discuss its organisation and management and agree on strategic issues for the improvement of health services delivery.

The meeting would also agree on a draft Ghana Health Sector Programme of Work (POW) and budget as well as resource envelope for 2006 health programmes and activities.

He attributed their inability to work as a team to divisiveness, turf of wars and lack of coordination and called for the need to use communication, collaboration, cooperation and control as the form of basis for coordination within the health sector.

The Minister noted that units, programmes and agencies of the health sector had been working on their own over the years without considering the effects of their actions or inactions on others and the health sector as a whole.

He blamed some of the development partners for contributing either deliberately or insidiously to the situation by dealing directly with units, programmes and agencies without recourse to the Ministry. "It is only when we work as a united body that we could eliminate waste, avoid duplication of activities, reduce expenditure and maximise the utilisation of resources towards a common objective".

Major Quashigah said the POW for 2006 would focus on providing health from conception through old age, improve health with interventions such as healthy lifestyles and healthy environments, scale up interventions to include immunisations, use insecticide treated bed nets, insist on the use of seat belts to prevent injuries in vehicle accidents and end with resorting health through curative and rehabilitative services.

The POW would also focus on good health in the home, school and at the work place, he said, adding, "and it is only when we fail to protect our health at these places that health facilities come into play". Mr Jakob Jakobsen of the Royal Danish Embassy, who read the joint response to the Ministry's POW for 2006 on behalf of the health partners, commended efforts underway to combat the human resources crisis hitting the country and gave their support to improving the situation in the health sector.

"One area, which is mentioned in the 2006 POW but is not found to be a priority area is the decentralisation of many of the human resource management functions (attraction, administration, retention and dismissal)".

The partners are Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), British Department for International Development (DFID), European Commission, the Netherlands, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), US Agency for International Development (USAID), World Health Organisation (WHO), Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank.

The partners said the slow pace of the public sector reform had constrained the Ministry of Health in implementing its own plans. The continuation of separate human resource departments in the Ministry and the Ghana Health Service on behalf of the health partners had also been a contributing factor.

The partners called for the urgent need to clarify the different functions of the two units.

The partners recommended that the need-based planning exercise be replaced with a process that took into consideration the actual available budget once the ceiling was known. They should also strengthen the ongoing efforts to accelerate budget execution. They explained that budget mangers presented expenditures in different formats and they found it very difficult to compare outputs with resource inputs thereby increasing the risk of incurring efficiency losses.

"And while the timing of disbursements has improved, serious delays are still leading to disruption of work."

The partners called for the need to ensure that resources were allocated to identified priorities and target groups and also strengthening and controlling quality measures to ensure that district plans responded to the identified priorities with appropriate community-focused interventions and monitoring to be made regularly against agreed timeliness and indicators.

The health partners recommended that sufficient allocation be made available in the POW for 2006 budget to ensure that poor Ghanaians were secured.

"Future scenarios that include realistic assumptions of the ability of the poor to pay the health insurance premium would be helpful to ensure that those, who are poor but covered under national health insurance scheme as indigent are covered in future", they said.

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