We can get our doctors to deprived areas

BY: Daily Graphic
Kwaku Agyemang-Manu
Kwaku Agyemang-Manu

Sickness invokes strong emotions in family members that may range from fear, depression, sadness or anxiety.

The cumulative effects of disease on society can be dire when quantified in economic terms.

It, therefore, stands incontestable that the health of a nation correlates directly with its economic growth and development.

It is for this reason that Ghana, as well as other nations, ensures that it provides the best of health care for all its citizens, even under competing demands from other sectors of the economy.

But since time immemorial the northern part of the country has faced disadvantages in the ratio of doctors to the population.

Whereas some conservative figures put the national doctor-patient ratio at 1:8,000, others put it at 1:10,000. The data becomes graver when it is disaggregated into regional figures.

For example, the doctor-patient ratio in the Upper West Region is as huge as 1:14,000.

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The sharp variance in the figures of doctors is not peculiar to the northern regions; it is the same in some of the regions of the south, such as the Central Region.

This is as a result of doctors refusing posting to these regions.

For instance, 13 newly recruited medical doctors who were posted to the Central Region have declined to take up the offer. The main factors are the already-known lack of economic activities, proper health management and incentive packages.

This has put a lot of stress on the few who go to such places, and we certainly cannot expect a doctor to attend to over 300 patients in the morning and remain effective and efficient.

The Daily Graphic wants to revisit the issue of incentives and advocate “positive discrimination” towards providing special and specific incentives that will encourage our doctors to stay in the deprived areas.

We have noted that many a time when a description is given of a deprived area, only few areas of the country qualify, which is also a disincentive to attracting personnel to those areas.

But take it or leave it, some towns in certain areas are far more accessible and developed than a district capital in another area of the country.

And this is one area we urge the health authorities and the government to look at.

We also note the statement by the Central Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Alexis Nang-Beifubah, at the 2018 Central Regional Health Sector Annual Performance Review meeting in Cape Coast and agree that there is urgent need for “practical strategies among stakeholders to address the canker to avoid a time bomb which could explode, embarrassingly, in our faces one day”.

We are happy to note that the Central Regional Health Directorate, with the support of district assemblies, has proposed and designed incentive packages to address the acute shortage of doctors in the region.

We appeal to the directorate not to keep those laudable plans to itself but share them with other regional health directorates, so that the good initiatives can be replicated across the country to get our medical doctors to areas where their services are needed.

For sure, the Daily Graphic reasons that no area of the country should be denied standard medical care for whatever reason, such as location, and everything possible must be done to address the disparity in the doctor-patient ratio.