One main objective of a good health delivery system is the ability to prevent or reduce deaths to the barest minimum.
Currently, the country finds itself in an awkward situation where there is a gradual rise in the cases of maternal deaths.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, at the opening of the 2022 National Health Sector Annual Summit recently, described the situation as not good enough.
Data available to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) show there were 875 maternal deaths in 2018 and 838 in 2019. Those figures decreased significantly to 776 in 2020.
The figure of maternal mortality represents a 12.3 per cent increase over what was recorded in 2020.
In addition to the above is the institutional maternal mortality ratio, which increased from 109.2 per 100,000 live births in 2020 to 119.5 per 100,000 live births in 2021, representing a 9.4 per cent increase. Institutional neonatal mortality per 1,000 live births also increased from 7.4 in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and all its associated impact, to 7.6 in 2021.
Surely, indicators such as these are not good and should be a worrying development to all, especially managers of the health delivery system in the country.
The Daily Graphic is equally worried that from 106 maternal deaths in 2020, the figure suddenly jumped to 875 in 2021, just like institutional maternal mortality, the live births ratio and the institutional neonatal mortality.
We are wondering what has gone wrong, such that from 2018 to 2020, there had been a steady decline in the maternal mortality rate in the country until this sharp rise in 2021.
The Daily Graphic expects the management of our health system to be more proactive by strengthening its primary healthcare service to stem the rise in maternal mortality in the country.
We cannot afford to slip from the steady improvement in our primary healthcare delivery, which saw the continuous decline in maternal mortality from 2018 until last year.
This is a trend the GHS, and for that matter the Ministry of Health should accept. We expect a robust healthcare system to be put in place to ensure safe pregnancy and delivery.
How can we, as a country, achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target 3.1, which requires that by 2030, about eight years from now, the global maternal mortality ratio should be less than 70 per 100,000 live births?
If anything at all, such a rise should have been recorded in 2020, when the country was under lockdown because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ironically, there was a significant decline in that year, and one would have expected that in 2021 the figure should have further reduced.
We call on the GHS, and for that matter the ministry, to deploy its monitoring and evaluation wing to find out what has gone wrong or what accounted for this sudden rise in maternal mortality in the country.
So many questions beg for answers: Could it be that there was a sharp decline in antenatal care at our various health facilities? If so, what might have accounted for that decline? How has been the quality of care for these pregnant women?
One thing is sure, and it is that something terrible went wrong in 2021 that needs to be identified and rectified immediately to restore our hope of at least a respectable figure of between 200 and 400 maternal deaths in the next eight years.
Time is of essence, and we believe that the managers of our health system need to know this and redouble, or if possible, quadruple their effort to let the whole world know that we too have made an effort.
As the situation stands, we cannot be considered to be serious in tackling maternal mortality in the country.