Nearly 150 experienced nurses and other health professionals from the Pantang Hospital have left the shores of the country in search of greener pastures in the last six years.
Of the number, 100 are specialised psychiatric and general nurses while the rest consist of doctors, pharmacists, technicians and other experienced personnel in the healthcare delivery chain.
Data sourced from the hospital showed that the number of experienced professionals that have abandoned their jobs started increasing in an alarming manner since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This phenomenon is defeating the efforts of the government to reinforce the workforce of the hospital with the recruitment of an additional 179 staff (professional nurses numbering 129) between 2018 and 2022.
An assessment of the data showed that from a report of eight professionals leaving in 2018, the number gradually jumped to 26 personnel in 2020 and peaked at 64 practitioners resigning in 2022.
The situation became more alarming when 11 experienced professionals, made up of 10 nurses and one doctor, resigned in January this year alone.
Information gathered by the Daily Graphic indicates that the development has been reported to the Ministry of Health (MoH) for redress.
The Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Frank Baning, in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, stated that the situation was negatively impacting on the medical department of the hospital.
“We are now losing the majority of our experienced nurses and other health professionals. In fact, almost every month, about 10 people leave,” he said.
Dr Baning explained that although the government was reinforcing staff strength through fresh recruits every year, the number of people leaving was alarming and needed to be addressed.
He said the situation was putting a huge burden, pressure and stress on the few that remained to work for the hospital and the country in general.
That, the Medical Director said, was already affecting the quality of healthcare delivery at the hospital, given the number of people who abandoned their work in the last two years.
“We have seen the effort of the government to reinforce the workforce but as soon as new recruits are brought on board, the hospital loses more of the experienced hands.
“Last year and this year alone, we have lost 75 people and so, we hope that the government will replace those leaving quickly to ensure efficiency.
“We may see the trend continuing this year as more than 10 professional nurses have already been reported to have left for greener pastures this year,” he said.
Professionals are leaving
The Medical Director noted that the category of nurses leaving fell within the professional level.
Dr Baning said in an ideal situation, the hospital required about 1,000 professional nurses to provide both mental and general services.
However, he said the facility could currently only boast of 286 nurses doing the work of 1,000 people.Two hundred and eighty-six is nowhere near what we call ideal,” the Pantang Hospital Medical Director said.
He added that the vacuum being created by the frequent departure made the additional recruits of the government insufficient.
The Administrator of the hospital, Collins Kesse, also told the Daily Graphic that beyond nurses, the hospital had also lost personnel in critical areas such as biomedical engineers, radiographers and pharmacists.
He said due to this phenomenon, the hospital engaged the services of private individuals and paid huge sums of money from its internally generated funds (IGF) to manage its X-ray machines and other equipment.
“And so, we need the right people in the right mix to ensure that the hospital operates in full capacity,” Mr Kesse said.
Multiple sources at the MoH confirmed that the ministry had been adequately informed about the Pantang Hospital situation regarding nurses and other professionals exiting.
However, they said the issue was nationwide as most health professionals were leaving the shores of the country to seek greener pastures.
That is because the outbreak of COVID-19 had created a huge demand for professional health personnel, especially in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), the sources maintained.
“The human resource department of the ministry is looking into the issues to see whether there can be any replacement for Pantang and other affected hospitals,” one of the sources added.
Govt taken notice
The Director-General (DG) of Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, in an earlier interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra on the departure of professional nurses, said the government had taken notice of the situation and the vacuum created.
“We are having a lot of professional nurses leaving the country to Europe and other parts of the world. They are taking mainly the professional nurses and so, there is the need to beef up professional nurses across the country,” he said.
As a result, Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the government had adopted a number of measures such as expanding study leave for auxiliary nurses and offering amnesty to auxiliary nurses who obtained higher certificates without prior approval from the appropriate authorities.
The GHS Director-General explained that the amnesty would ensure that nurses who genuinely acquired certificates that befit their skills were upgraded from auxiliary status to professional nurse status. Others include a comprehensive assessment to ascertain the impact of nurses leaving Ghana for greener pastures.