Accra, Nov. 29, GNA - Professor Paul Nyame, Chairman of the Medical and Dental Council (MDC), on Tuesday insisted that training of health professionals should not just be numbers but quality. He said though the brain drain had affected the number of doctors working in the country and the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had also recommended that Ghana could solve the problem if training of health professionals were increased to even have surplus for export, high standards should be given a serious thought.
Speaking at a two-day workshop on "Development of Criteria for Minimum Standards in Medical and Dental Schools" in Accra, Prof. Nyame said it was very necessary to be very sure that the medical professional produced to attend to the sick was well trained to save lives and not to kill.
He noted that it was too early and even not advisable for the medical schools in the country to seek for expansion and increase in the intake of students since there were no facilities and faculties to accommodate such increase adding, expansion of institutions and increasing intake was not the solution to the problem".
He said the Medical School at the University of Development Studies had not been given recognition from Medical Council for about a decade now since its announcement because there were many problems that needed to be solved to gain recognition.
"We should be mindful that we have to maintain standards within the framework of the available facilities and faculty".
Prof. Nyame said "we could only think of increase in intake or expansion when we have the facilities and lecturers to accommodate the high numbers bearing in mind the quality of the end product".
He suggested the training of physician assistants to assist the few doctors currently attending to the overwhelming number of patients at health facilities since the current doctor patient ratio was 1:12,000.
Dr Joachim Saweka, The WHO Country Representative, in a speech read for him, said though the Human Resource for health challenges appeared to be insurmountable, with proper reflection, careful planning and support from stakeholders, "Ghana could turn the 'brain drain' to 'brain gain'".
Speaking on: "WHO's perspective on medical manpower in the Sub-Region with emphasis on Ghana", the new Country Representative said the persistent migration of health personnel had greatly affected the human resource development of the nation. Giving statistics to show the magnitude of the problem, Dr Saweka said 12,356 health professional including medical doctors, pharmacists, laboratory technicians and nurses left the country in search of greener pastures between 1993 and 2002.
He said the migration was not only prevalent in Ghana but the Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.
A study carried out on migration of health professionals in Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa, Senegal Uganda and Zimbabwe in 2000 indicated that more than 5,000 doctors left for United States with similar reasons of good quality education, better salaries, pleasant working environment and other motivating factors.
He said Ghana currently had 1,210 practising physicians while 478 graduates of Ghanaian medical schools were practising in the United States alone.
"These 478 Ghanaian graduates in the USA represent 30 per cent of Ghana's potential medical workforce. If none of those had gone to the USA, the physician to population ratio would have improved form 6.2 to 8.7 per 100,000".
Dr Saweka noted that medical education alone costs Ghana about nine million dollars a year and if measures were not put in place to address the situation, "there is a great risk that efforts and investments in health will come to nought".
Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, noted that funding medical schools was expensive and tasked participants to come out with ideas of running medical schools without spending much.
She said the Ministry would not do things that had not been budgeted for and cautioned Heads of Medical Schools to take note of expansion and increase the intake. 29 Nov. 05