REJOINDER: DEROGATORY REMARKS MADE AGAINST COMPETENT PROFESSIONALS DURING DISCUSSIONS ON COVID 19; FDA UNDER FIRE OVER RECALL OF COA FS IMMUNE SUPPLEMENT, ON GOOD MORNING GHANA SHOW
The attention of the Ghana Association of Medical Herbalists (GAMH) has been drawn to discussions related to FDA’s post-market surveillance on COA FS Supplement on a morning show dubbed “Good Morning Ghana” televised live on Metro Television on Tuesday 21st April 2020, hosted by Mr. Randy Abbey.
During the said show that hosted Dr. Bernard Okoe-Boye, MP for Ledzokuku Constituency and Deputy Minister of Health, and Dr. Omane Boamah former Minister of Communications, Mr. Randy Abbey made some damning allegations about trained Medical Herbalists from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
Mr Abbey sought to infer that Herbal Medicine graduates from KNUST go about using the title “Doctor” on various media platforms to market Herbal products to the general public. He further claimed that these graduates are trained for six months, use the medical jargons/terminologies learnt from school to market products, and he does not know if such people are marketers, comedians, or health practitioners. The erroneous statements which were made by the host sought to paint a picture that we were persons with inadequate medical training who were impersonating medical professionals with the use of medical jargons in a bid to deceive the public.
The Ghana Association of Medical Herbalists would like to make it known emphatically to Metro TV, the respected GMG platform and the very respected Mr. Randy Abbey that the person or persons he referred to are NOT graduates of the KNUST Herbal Medicine school and are not members of the professional body. Indeed we ourselves as professionals, and of course all other stakeholders are very much concerned about the flooding of our media space by persons who medically know close to nothing and yet are allowed to engage in supposed health education publicly without recourse to medical ethics.
We, over the years, are contributing our part together with other stakeholders to find a lasting solution to this national challenge. We find the attempt to link such unprofessional conduct of quacks within the herbal medicine space, and the derogatory comments about our members by a respected seasoned journalist like Mr. Randy Abbey as extremely unfortunate. We expect Mr Abbey to retract those statements and apologize unequivocally.
Having said all that, if the intention of Mr Abbey is to protect public safety (which we believe is the case) we assure him and the public that public safety is at the apex of our association’s priorities. We are therefore willing and ready to partner the station, the GMG platform and the host, Mr. Randy Abbey, to educate the public on the rational use of herbal medicines and other matters relative to the herbal industry.
It should be noted that Medical Herbalists are health- care professionals trained to make definite diagnosis based on standard clinical diagnostic skills and making a treatment plan based on scientifically validated herbal medicines. Medical Herbalists man herbal medicine facilities in government hospitals nationwide fostering the integration of traditional medicine services into the mainstream health care system of Ghana, by the Ministry of Health through the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate (TAMD).
One of such facility can be found in Lekma Hospital as reiterated by Honourable Okoe-Boye on the show. There are currently over 35 government hospitals with Herbal units nationwide with arrangements ongoing to scale-up these centers to at least one hundred within the next two years. Indeed other Medical Herbalists work with private Herbal clinics/hospital, other public institutions and they do so professionally.
Training of Medical Herbalists is achieved in two main stages, both stages totaling six(6) years. The first stage involves the study of a four-year Bachelor of science (BSc) degree at the KNUST, where students are trained in Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences coupled with Clinical training to develop relevant knowledge and skills related to the already stated job descriptions above. The disciplines administered includes but not limited to: Human Anatomy and Physiology, Pathology (Gross and Chemical), Diagnostic skills (history taking and physical examination), Clinical Investigations (imaging, ultrasound, and laboratory Science), Pharmacology, Pharmaceutics (Dispensing and Microbiology), Phytotherapy, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, among others.
The second aspect of the training involves a mandatory two years Internship/National Service prior to the administration of a professional Qualifying Examination (PQE) by the Traditional Medicine Practice Council (TMPC) of the Ministry of Health-the statutory regulatory body.
The internship is observed in three rotations as follows;
- A year experience at Medical centres with Herbal medicine units, Research Centres, and Regulatory Institutions for training in evaluation of Herbal Medicine and monitoring of the use of traditional health services. This is now on the National service scheme.
- Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR), Akuapem-Mampong, Mampong-Akuapem - Involves Diagnostic techniques, microbiology, laboratory practices, consulting, Drug analysis, production and dispensing of herbal medicines etc, for 6 months.
- Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital, Akuapem-Mampong- Exposure to patient care in all clinical disciplines, Districts and sub district health care system, referral of at-risk patients, especially in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and surgical emergencies especially where patients are at risk etc, for 6 months.
Induction ceremonies are organized for newly qualified Medical Herbalists by the ministry of health annually https://www.gbcghanaonline.com/news/herbal-medicine-practice-integrated-into-healthcare-delivery-system/2019/ after which they are inducted into the professional association- Ghana Association of Medical Herbalists (GAMH). The professionals undertake regular continues professional development annually which is a prerequisite for licence renewal.
The title of Medical Herbalists as prescribed by the Regulator- Traditional Medicine Practice Council is Dr. (MH). Indigenous Traditional Practitioners are also supposed to be titled as N/Dr. likewise, you may have a Naturopathic practitioner and they can use ND or NMD. These titles are based on the law regulating traditional medicine practices (ACT 575; Section 13).
It is worthy of note that:
1. The practice of Traditional and Alternative Medicine (TAM) is very broad with a lot of overlap in terms of the scope. This big umbrella of TAM covers numerous practitioners whose mode of healthcare delivery is based on different principles and training so generalisations during discussions have the potential to create a lot of confusion.
2. All these practitioners continue to make some significant contribution to healthcare in Ghana. However, there are still challenges with regulation that must be looked at critically. These situations are not peculiar to Ghana alone and as a professional body we recognise and admit the challenges. However, as a country we have made appreciable progress and Ghana is considered as model around the world; to our credit.
3. The diversity of practices means that each group of practitioners may have a specific designation based on training and classification by the regulator (Traditional Medicine Practice Council).
In the spirit of fairness and service to the good people of Ghana, GAMH is taking the higher road of staying focused in our duties, especially in this CoVID 19 pandemic. We will continue to diligently provide quality herbal medicines services to the general public. We are therefore throwing you Mr. Randy Abbey, and Metro TV a strong challenge, to promise to partner GAMH for fair and well-informed updates and discussions on issues pertaining to the state of quality herbal medicine services in Ghana. Please be useful allies in the fight to sanitize the herbal industry of our dear republic.
We are our own spokespersons. We are not comedians or marketers.
Dr. (MH) Anthony Mensah