Dr Frank Serebour, President of the Ghana Medical Association
Dr Frank Serebour, President of the Ghana Medical Association

Resolve skewed health personnel distribution nationwide - Dr Serebour

The President of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Dr Frank Serebour, has called on the government and other stakeholders to put in place measures to correct skewed distribution of health personnel across the country.

According to him, there were still a lot of facilities being served by one medical officer, which was an indictment on all those who had a hand in the management of health delivery systems of the country.

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He said, “Let us remove the face of this issue and discuss it openly and honestly towards ensuring even distribution of medical officers across the nation.”

Annual conference

Dr Serebour was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 64th Annual General Conference (AGC) of the association in Bolgatanga last Friday.

The conference, which was the first to be held in the region, was on the theme: "Addressing the doctor distribution dilemma: The case of Ghana and its underserved areas.”

Working conditions

The president noted that the issue of brain drain among medical officers was on the rise, hence if measures were not put in place to quickly anchor the ship, the nation would face a disaster soon.

“Therefore, I call for the conditions of service of medical officers and other professionals to be looked at urgently to attract and retain them in the country.

"It is important for us to bite the bullet and put in place measures such as doctors retiring on their salaries and re-introduction of vehicle importation tax waivers for health workers,” he indicated.

While commending the government on the Agenda 111 hospital projects, he noted that if the conditions of service of health workers were not attended to, most health facilities would not have health workers to man them.

He further called on the government to as a matter of urgency attend to all uncompleted hospital projects, including the La General Hospital.

Inequitable distribution

The Deputy Minister of Health, Mahama Asei Seini, said the inequitable distribution of health workers in Ghana remained one of the major obstacles in the nation's quest to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

He noted that the ministry had set up a committee on deprived area incentive packages comprising representatives of all unions in the health sector and other stakeholders.

He said the committee had completed the work and that the ministry had committed to expediting the process of implementation.

He said when implemented, the package would ensure the payment of allowances for serving in deprived areas and scholarship for postgraduate education, among others.

"The ministry will collaborate with relevant ministries to improve working conditions in rural areas such as road network, housing, telecommunications access and access to education," Mr Seini said.

Tremendous gains

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Ghana, Dr Francis Chisaka Kabolo, in a keynote address, said undoubtedly, Ghana had made gains in the doctor-to-population ratio, improving from one doctor to 17,899 in 2005 to one doctor to 6,500 in 2020.

He said “this is very commendable as Ghana is often cited as a good example in expanding investments in doctors", adding that “this has helped propel Ghana's progress in UHC scores from 24 per cent in 2000 to 45 per cent in 2021”.

However, he said available data showed 42 per cent of the doctors were in Accra alone and up to 81.3 per cent were concentrated in five regions, namely the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Northern and Volta regions.

He called for the provision of differential incentives for those working in rural and underserved areas, stressing that “this will require engagement with stakeholders to develop a contextually relevant bundle of monetary and non-pecuniary incentives by finalising and implementing the deprived area incentive scheme".

For his part, the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, in a welcome address, said he had directed all the 15 municipal and district assemblies in the region to identify and sponsor medical students within their jurisdictions who would come back to serve after completing school.

Additionally, the MDAs have been asked to provide decent accommodation for doctors who accept posting to the various districts to enhance healthcare delivery in the region for the benefit of the people.

Writer’s email:[email protected]

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