Dr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, the Minister of Health, on Friday said the issue of medical brain drain continued to be a major concern to the government and the people of Ghana.
He said available statistics indicated that since 1996 about 5,000 doctors and 18,000 nurses, including pharmacists, laboratory technologists and other health professionals left the country for greener pastures.
Dr Manu who said these in a speech read on his behalf at the induction ceremony of 395 Physician Assistants and Certified Registered Anaesthetists in Accra, urged the newly inductees to give some thought to the problem.
He said some estimates indicated that it costs about GH¢50,000 to train a Physician Assistants and Certified Registered Anaesthetists from Senior High School to their training institutions, adding that the lowly paid workers, farmers, fisher folks and their families whose taxes were used to train these professionals were not getting value for the investment in them.
“…despite all our difficulties, some of us think we can and we should make faster progress than we have done over the years,” he said, and urged the inductees to take on the challenge of making a difference that would build upon what their predecessors have accomplished.
Dr Manu said “if we need to make a difference in our health indices, we need to move out and deliver care in the rural areas” adding that the challenges were not as much as in the urban areas as they are in the rural areas.
“Our disease burden continues to be dominated by preventable and easily treatable diseases. The persistent burden of childhood, communicable diseases for which preventive and simple curative measures are widely available. Maternal mortality continues to be a major problem.
“I will not hide the fact that the health services in Ghana are beset with problems, but government’s vision to transform this sector into one that is capable of fulfilling its mandate is intact. We have had series of setbacks as a result of dissatisfaction with salaries and allowances.
“What sometimes disturbs us is the position some of us adopt when there are delays, sometimes justifiable delays, in arriving at solution to our problems,” he added.
The Minister said industrial action in settling disputes should be used as instruments of last resort, adding that “after protracted negotiations, and at all times, the leaders of the profession should ensure that skeletal medical staff are placed at all emergency in the facilities so that very seriously ill patients receive treatment”.
“If we have to learn from the past, then we should learn to solve problems systematically and to ensure that we plug all loopholes as we define these solutions. It is my wish, however, that the health workforce records less incidents of strike…..I am sure with the commitment from both government and the health workforce issues of strike would be a thing of the past,” he added.
Professor Paul K. Nyame, Chairman of Medical and Dental Council, mentioned over-enrolment, localized chronic poor performance and internal institutional politics that impact academic work as some of the causes of poor performance in some of the training institutions.
He said the Council would work with the training institutions and the Ministry of Health to chart a course that ensures a culture of excellence.
He urged the newly inductees to be disciplined, saying, “I am convinced that no nation or individual can make any meaningful progress without the virtue of discipline”
He said as a nation we must be worried about indiscipline in all aspects because acts of indiscipline were the bane to the national health and wish for progress development.
“As health professionals, you will be treated with respect, which must, of course, be earned and maintained. You will therefore be expected to be the leaders in charge of discipline, by example.
“Do not claim titles you are not entitled to. Using name plates, or business cards with a title you are not entitled to may fool the uninformed but betray a lack of integrity,” he added.
Dr Eli K. Atikpui, the Registrar, said by the induction they have taken a greater responsibility of taking care of patients and urged them to adhere to the ethics of the professions.