A two-day African Regional meeting aimed at discussing ways of strengthening health systems through quality improvement, to make patient care more effective and efficient, was opened in Accra on Monday.
The meeting which is the first of its kind in Africa is being organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua), the University Research Co., and the Quality and Performance Institute.
Participations from Ghana, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Swaziland, Nigeria and Sudan, would share their respective country’s experiences, knowledge and strengthen their collaborations in order to meet the health related Millennium Development Goals.
Dr Frank Nyonator, Director, Human Resource and Health Development at the MOH, said the health sector recognized the importance of patient safety in health care delivery, and stressed that the meeting would provide major insights into how to improve upon the quality of care delivered to patients in the country.
He noted that although Ghana had made tremendous progress in its health care delivery, there still remained numerous challenges such as inadequate funding and inadequacies in health infrastructure.
Dr Nyonator called for strengthened partnership between stakeholders to ensure quality delivery and access to health care services to under-served communities in the country.
Dr Francis Omaswa, Executive Director of the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST), Uganda, viewed a weak national health system as an important contributor to poverty and inequity in the African Region.
To him, persons who were in poor health less frequently moved up and more frequently moved down the social ladder than healthy persons.
Relating to the Ugandan story on access to quality health care, Dr Omaswa also indicated that equitable and sustainable access to properly functioning health systems, however, had not been attained across the Region.
There have always been geographical disparities, with many people, particularly those in rural areas, often having to travel long distances to receive basic health care, and once they reach a hospital or a clinic, they may only receive health care if they pay for it, he said.
Dr Omaswa said inevitably, many people may forego treatment because they could not afford it.
He noted that the role of the health system became particularly relevant through the issue of access to preventive and curative health services.
Dr Omaswa said the health system could directly address inequities not only by improving equitable access to care, but also in the promotion of inter-sectoral action to improve health status.
He stressed that the health system was also capable of ensuring that health problems did not lead to a further deterioration of people’s social status and of facilitating sick people’s social reintegration.
Dr Omaswa said ” in spite of various constraints, tangible progress has been made by governments, communities and partners towards improved health outcomes; nevertheless, many challenges lie ahead.
“However, health systems are still weak and the Region still faces an increasing burden of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, high child and maternal mortality, recurrent epidemics and humanitarian crises aggravated by the global financial crisis”.
Dr Omaswa attributed the lack of significant progress in the health sector to the rapid turnover of people in key positions, lack of continuity in policy, lack of resources, poor management of available resources and poor implementation seen in many countries as major constraints to improving the health systems.
He stressed on the importance of focusing on the continuous support in strengthening health systems based on primary health care approach, adding that this would help close the access gap and help reduce maternal and child mortality in the Region.
Dr Omaswa advocated strong government partnership with stakeholders, leadership, good governance, accountability as well as the mobilisation of internal funding to expand health infrastructure to ensure improvement in access and quality health care delivery.