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04.01.2006 Health

Health sector in crisis

By Chronicle
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Chronicle -- The health situation in Ghana has been described as one in a crisis because of the huge loss of health personnel trained with the taxpayers' money to the West.

This conclusion was drawn by the Director of Ghana Health Service, Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa on Wednesday when he received four haemoglobin meters from Star 100, a group of mostly Ghanaian, Nigerian and other African professionals based in the UK and the United States for health centers in Ghana.

Explaining the sorry state of the health sector, Prof Akosa lamented that the 1,700 doctors currently in the country cannot cater for the huge population in the country, which is estimated at about 20 million Ghanaians without difficulties and problems.

Comparing Ghana to other developing countries, Prof Akosa said Malaysia with 22 million people has 14,500 doctors while Sri Lanka with 18 million people has 11,000 doctors. "Kenya, 26 million has 5,000 doctors.

This gives doctors in these countries ample time to really investigate what is wrong with patients."

He said this is not the same for Ghana as time would not be enough to investigate further.

"It is bad with nurses and is even worse with X-ray and laboratory technicians and if it had been some other country, the health service would have grounded to a halt but we are still working".

Quoting a World Health Organisation (WHO) Report, he said Ghana in 2002 lost 70 doctors, 77 pharmacists and 214 nurses.

"Our inability to retain our health workers or personnel is the number problem with the health sector. We need staff and we must retain them and train some more."

He said stakeholders including the government must know that he sector is in a crisis situation and therefore must come together to focus and to resolve the problem together.

"We need to introduce new levels of staff to replace the once that have left."

He reiterated his statement that doctors should be indemnified from mistakes as the number of patients they care for is beyond their capacity and might make mistakes. "To look after 200 people a day, no one can say we cannot make mistakes."

He said requesting for indemnity does not mean they would careless in the undertaking of their duties.

Currently, the GHS has staff strength of about 36,000 and more is needed.

He suggested retention of health workers in the country as solution to the problem by paying them better wages and salaries. "Ghana is not the poorest country in Africa but we pay our health professionals the worst".

Health is wealth and not a drain on national resources as is being perceived.

He said health professionals couldn't be compared to the other sectors of the economy because of the services they provide.

Prof Akosa said that a country that loses its radical minds cannot progress. Ghana runs that risk because the radical minds are the 25 to 35 years. They are impressionists, they would criticize the system and throw up ideas but at the end of the day, that is how a country progresses.

Most of the health centers in the country do not have laboratories.

Star 100 had presented four haemoglobin meters worth £1,700 to the GHS.

The meters were to be distributed by the GHS to health centers in the country especially to the most densely populated parts of the country. He said most of Ghanaian health centers do not have the equipment to assess the haemoglobin levels of pregnant women.

The meters are to check the haemoglobin of patients, especially pregnant women.

Prof Akosa noted that the 550 health centers in the country lack laboratory equipment and therefore the meters have come in handy for such health centers such as Nima Health Center where the birth rate is very high.

The leader and founder of Star 100, Mr. William Tawiah said the donation was a token from the group and more would be expected from them.

He announced that an office would be established in Accra this year to coordinate activities of the group in Ghana.

In an interview with Dr. Sunday Popo-Ola, a Nigerian member of the group said the donation would be better the next time round.

In a related development, the Star 100 group has donated an amount of £1,450 to sponsor four pupils from the primary school to the Senior Secondary School level through the National Partnership for Children's Trust.

According to the Public Relations Officer of the group, Mr. Leslie Amissah, the amount would help poor students to be able to afford school fees, uniform, bags, and books among others.

In response to the donation, Mrs. Judith Sawyerr, a member of the board of trustees of the trust was happy with the presentation and said the money would be applied as specified.

She said the National Partnership for Children's Trust was established in response to a call by the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and his wife Grace Machel has awarded 105 scholarships amounting to ¢92 million and the renovation of a toilet block for Kanda Cluster of Schools at Accra at ¢36 million.