Prof Kwabena Awhoi, a local government expert, has called for the review of Act 525 which established the Ghana Health Service (GHS) as a centralized Service in order to decentralize the country’s health system.
He said the health sector, which was part of the decentralization schedule under the Local Government Act, 1993, Act 462, was removed from the schedule under the Local Government act 2003, Act 656.
“Decentralization can only be done by allowing the district-level staff of the Service to remain with the Ghana Health Service while working for the District Assemblies or to mitigate them from the Ghana Health Service to the Local Government service or to allow the two of them to belong to the two services,” he said.
Speaking at this year’s Health Summit in Accra on the theme “Working together towards quality health care for all in Ghana”, Prof Awhoi explained that health sector decentralization was part of administrative decentralization component and should be implement as required.
The five-day summit will ascertain the extent to which programmes and activities planned in the 2013 programme of work were implemented and the extent to which targets of the sector have been met.
The objective of this year’s summit would be to review performance for 2013, dialogue on challenges, identify causes of weaknesses and build consensus on mitigating strategies in providing quality health care services to all.
Prof. Ahwoi said the policy decision of moving health sector decentralization in the direction of devolution at the district level would come with its own challenges, “but if we put our minds together, we will surmount them”.
Devolution in the health sector, he said, involves staff of Ghana health service operating under the effective control of the District Assemblies.
He said though the health sector had met almost all the criteria for effective devolution, officials of the health sector were not subjected to the effective control of the local authorities whilst health sector officials continue with their vertical reporting relationship through their regional level directorates to their national headquarters.
He said decentralization in the health sector to devolution was no longer government policy, but a constitutional directive backed by legal sanctions.
Prof Ahwoi said it was time for various departments decentralized into the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to conform with operational framework to ensure that the concept achieve desire goals and objectives.
Ms Sherry Ayittey Minister of Health urged the various health groups like the Ghana Medical Association to embrace the idea when it is implemented.
She enumerated the numerous challenges facing the health sector and its training institutions citing lack of skilled tutors in midwifery training institutions as well as the poor performance of students and called for more resources and a holistic approach to provide equity and accessibility of quality health care to all.
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