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Ministry of Health strives to improve medical care for all

Article - September 13, 2012
Foreign investment and rise in GDP has allowed Ghana to invest in quality and affordable medical services as well as proactive preventative initiatives
As the African nation of Ghana grows in GDP, with an increase of 13.4% last year, it is taking its place as a middle income country which allows the government to continually improve the health of the citizens and promote policies that boost the quality of life.

“Health is the number one priority of every individual in every society,” says Alban S.K. Bagbin, Minister of Health in the Republic of Ghana, adding that the $1.2 billion that the United States has just invested in the country will be crucial for vast improvements to the health sector.

“The first critical area is saving lives that are threatened by HIV/ AIDS. Secondly, we should look at human resource development, which is education.”

However, Mr. Bagbin notes  that the HIV rate is amongst the lowest in the region at 1.8%, down from its peak of 4%. It still remains one of the government’s key health initiatives, along with sexually transmitted diseases, malaria – which accounts for 33% of the deaths in Ghana – tuberculosis, reproductive and child health, immunizations and emergency care.

The Ministry of Health has announced its commitment to promoting proactive policies, provisions of universal access to basic health service and the provision of quality and affordable health care. It has also already made significant strides in emergency care, investing €10 million ($12.5 million) in 161 Mercedes Benz ambulances with plans to purchase 200 more next year.

“I can assure you that currently in Ghana health worker migration, ‘brain drain’ is going out of fashion. We are enjoying a lot of ‘brain gain’ now because we are getting the right things done.”

Alban S.K. Bagbin, Minister of Health

“The target is to get just over 1,000 in the system. We want each district to have no less than three ambulances operating and each municipality to have no less than four,” says Mr. Bagbin, elaborating the dire need for emergency service vehicles with the high rate of automobile accidents in the country.

“We are also further equipping hospitals with equipment from the United States worth $267 million to seamlessly work with the ambulance service.”

Because of this high level of care being established in Ghana, the country is experiencing an influx of medical tourism. The Minister says the country will focus on attracting more foreigners, medically supporting those from African countries in their region and even from abroad.

Although the modernization and growth of the medical industry in Ghana is allowing the country to provide better services to its citizens, currently only 30-35% of the prescription drugs in Ghana are produced locally, leaving a huge deficit for potential foreign investors.

“We definitely import a lot more of our drug requirements, despite the fact that we have a number of pharmaceutical companies,” says Mr. Bagbin referring to the nearly 24 local enterprises producing prescription drugs. “They are definitely looking for partners to try and expand and improve the quality, efficacy, and usefulness of their products.”

Whereas foreign investment will be an essential component to the growth of the Ghanaian medical industry, so will the return of many native health workers to their country from abroad.

“I can assure you that currently in Ghana health worker migration, ‘brain drain’ is going out of fashion. We are enjoying a lot of ‘brain gain’ now because we are getting the right things done,” remarks Mr. Bagbin.

In fact, many professionals, even those practicing medicine in the U.S. are returning to their homeland to set up private health practices. For example, a renowned Ghanaian specialist in orthopedics, who previously practiced in the United States, was commissioned to set up a new hospital in the nation’s capital.

With more highly educated professionals in the country, the Ministry of Health can use these national resources to improve health education initiatives to disseminate critical information to the population ranging from hygiene and sanitation to maternity. 

“Health is the number one priority,” affirms Mr. Bagbin. “I believe the time to invest in the sector is now and many of our people are getting to know and appreciate what is happening in Ghana.”