The refusal of doctors to accept postings to the Northern, Upper East and West regions remains a major challenge to the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
According to Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of the Ghana Health Service, “out of the 11 doctors we placed in the Upper East, only two have reported, the Upper West, two, Northern Region out of the 12 they needed, we gave them three but nobody has gone there.”
“When we opened the portal for placement in the various districts and regions, Greater Accra was full within 15 minutes, Ashanti, 25 minutes, and for a whole week, Northern Region for instance had not received any application.”
Only 50 per cent of the 150 doctors placed in various regions across the country by the GHS in January this year have assumed duty.
Making the stark revelation at the induction of 106 medical and dental practitioners in Accra on Friday, the DG attributed the phenomenon to failure of doctors to mostly practise in rural areas, a situation that undermined Ghana’s efforts to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
“It’s not as if there are no jobs, everybody wants to be in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi. They don’t even want Cape Coast and they all prefer teaching hospitals.Those who have refused to take up the placements are in Accra doing locums (a term used by practitioners engaged in part time jobs in private hospitals),” he lamented.
Dr Nsiah-Asare blamed the situation squarely on parents and guardians, politicians and ‘influential’ people in the society who refuse to allow their children practise away from the major towns and cities.
“I have influential people still knocking on my doors to change placement for their wards or relatives. Parents lead their children to our offices to alter postings with lots of excuses, but if we do not start to address the uneven distribution of health workers notably nurses and doctors to health facilities across the country, then we are heading for a crisis,” he stressed.
Expressing the GHS’ determination to follow through the new policy of advertising vacancies for qualified health workers to apply, the DG urged parents to allow their wards “explore the profession” and practise anywhere they were posted to pick up the needed experiences to enrich their career and promote healthcare delivery in the country.
Dr Nsiah-Asare made known the intentions of the service to partner some private entities in establishing doctors’ flats across regional and district capitals to accommodate practitioners as the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) also initiated strategies to attract health workers into their jurisdictions.
“We are working at differential payments for health workers in deprived areas and the urban areas, we may also look at the need to pay workers on number of hours spent at health facilities and also ensure that for any doctor to qualify for a postgraduate course, he or she must have served in at least one rural area,” he noted.
Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu in a speech read on his behalf shared similar sentiments with the DG of the GHS saying, “we do not have the right numbers and the right mix of skills and expertise in our districts and rural areas.
I wish to encourage new doctors to accept postings to accredited district hospitals where your services are most needed especially during your second year of housemanship,” he urged.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said his outfit had created a quality management unit to oversee best practices and ensure “that our people receive the best of healthcare irrespective of their geographical location.”
The Minister charged the new doctors to exhibit right attitudes and professional conduct reminding them of the oath they took to “serve our people with diligence and dedication.”