Minister of Health Alex Segbefia has said that though the health sector is faced with some challenges, government's transformational plan to reposition it for better service delivery is on course and remains intact.
“I will not hide the fact that the health service in the country is beset with problems, but government's vision to transform this sector into one capable of fulfilling its mandate is intact,” he said.
“We have had a series of setbacks as a result of dissatisfaction with salaries and allowances,” he said during the induction ceremony of 252 newly-qualified doctors and dentists by the Medical & Dental Council.
“Let me take this opportunity to reiterate that we are where we are because we have had to respond to threats to industrial actions from health workers. And if we have to learn from the past, then we should learn to solve problem systematically and to ensure that we plug all loop holes as we define these solutions,” he said.
He expressed hope that with the commitment from government and health workers, issues of strike actions would become a thing of the past.
Mr Segbefia expressed regret that preventable and curative childhood and communicable diseases were still available, while maternal mortality continues to pose a major problem.
“Another area of concern is the upsurge of non-communicable diseases, road traffic injuries which are or have come to take up the top five positions of common causes of mortality,” he said.
The government is pursuing regenerative health and nutrition programmes, creating change agents within communities to support healthier lifestyles, good eating habits and improved sanitation.
“We have adopted this approach simply because as a developing country we have started feeling the effect of a silent epidemic of non-communicable disease, in addition to the communicable ones,” Mr Segbefia mentioned.
He warned that if action was not taken now “we may get to a situation where our entire health budget will be swallowed by the treatment of lifestyle diseases which could have been avoided at no cost.”
He said the ministry was concerned with the growing health service gap between urban and rural communities, estimating that about 52 percent of doctors were in the Greater Accra Region.
The figure escalates to around 78 percent when Ashanti, Eastern and Central regions are added.
“It is sad to state that there are only six Ghanaian doctors serving a population of about a million in the Upper West Region,” he said.
In order to bridge the gap, he said the Tamale Teaching Hospital would serve as a base for health workforce who will, in turn, serve the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions.
He commended the College of Physicians & Surgeons and the West Africa Postgraduate Colleges for their role in the retention of health professions in the country.
“Because of the well-structured programmes of these colleges, a good number of doctors have as at now been attracted to stay and undertake their specialisations in Ghana,” he said.
Dr Eli Kwasi, Registrar of the Medical & Dental Council, said the inductees qualified after years of training and have gone through a programme on ethics, law and medical jurisprudence organised by the council.
The inductees will be issued with provisional registration certificates to enable them to undertake their two year's housemanship in accredited institutions, a prerequisite for permanent registration.
The 252 inductees bring the number of doctors released this year by the council to about 600. The figure excludes hundreds of physician assistants trained in the health sector.