Healthcare delivery in the three northern regions will suffer a major setback soon because the personnel who provide it are ageing and due for retirement.
In the Upper East Region alone, 71 of such personnel retired in 2013; 82 are due for retirement this year, while 94 will be retiring next year.
Although the doctor-patient ratio improved between 2007 and 2010, there are fears that if nothing is done about it, healthcare delivery in northern Ghana will be adversely affected.
In the Northern Region, for instance, the doctor-to-patient ratio in 2007 was one doctor to 92,046 persons. It improved to one doctor to 68,817 in 2008 and further to one doctor to 50,751 in 2009. In 2010, the doctor-to-patient ratio further improved to one doctor to 18,257 people.
In spite of the numerous challenges that healthcare delivery faces in the northern part of the country, the Ministry of Health (MoH) cannot recruit health personnel due to a ban on recruitment into the public sector.
Dr Kwaku Awoonor, the Upper East Regional Director of Health, therefore made a passionate appeal to the Minister of Health, Dr Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah, to do something about the situation when the minister toured the region.
In his response, the minister gave an assurance that he would discuss the issue with the Ministry of Finance for the health ministry to be given a concession to employ more critical health personnel for the three regions in the northern part of the country.
This will help fill the huge gap created by the absence of critical staff due to the embargo on the recruitment of employees into the public sector since 2010.
The Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Health, My Tony Goodman, said this as he accompanied the minister on a tour of health facilities in the three regions.
He also said the recruitment and replacement of those essential health personnel would be extended to other regions where the services of some critical health personnel were needed. The minister, according to Mr Goodman, however, explained that since the three regions of northern Ghana were the worst affected in terms of health personnel, more people would be employed there.
Mr Goodman added that the minister further explained that all categories of workers in the sector, including doctors, nurses, technicians and auxillary staff, would be employed.
Doctor population ratio
The doctor-population ratio for Ghana, based on statistics on doctors on the government payroll improved from one doctor to 11,929 in 2009 to one doctor to 10,423 in 2010, according to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) 2010 report.
However, over the years, the number of health personnel, especially doctors and nurses, continues to be unstable from 2007 to 2010.
In the Greater Accra Region where the doctor-to-patient ratio was far better than all the other regions, there was the ratio of one doctor to 5,202 people in 2007 and that improved to one doctor to 4,959 people in 2008.
It then dropped to one doctor to 5,103 people in 2009 and slightly improved to one doctor to 4,099 people in 2010.
The situation in Accra was, however, not the same as what pertained in the Northern Region where the doctor-patient ratio improved from one doctor to 92,046 in 2007 to one doctor to 68,817 in 2008.
Although the ratio in the Northern Region improved from one doctor to 50,751 people in 2009 to one doctor to 18,257 in 2010, the situation is not the best.
Distribution of doctors
The overall number of health workforce on the Ministry of Health payroll as of December 2010 was 50,206 compared to 49,318 in 2009.
According to the 2010 Annual Report of the GHS, 72 per cent of doctors were under the GHS with 15 per cent under the Christian Health Association of Ghana, six per cent working under the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH); five per cent, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), and two per cent working at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH).
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