Mr Rockson Ayine Bukari, the Upper East Regional Minister, has expressed worry about the dwindling doctor-patient ratio in the region saying it has compelled patients to seek health care services outside the region.
The call follows the unwillingness of doctors, especially people from the region who refuse postings to the area to augment the few doctors at the Regional Hospital which is a major referral centre.
The Regional Hospital is currently managed by seven doctors including a Paediatrician who is the only specialist, and doubling as the Acting Medical Director, while out of the number the Ghana News Agency has heard that some have declared their intentions to go for further studies.
The Minister’s worry is precipitated by the blatant refusal of doctors to accept postings to the region including natives who were trained with taxpayer’s money.
Mr Bukari expressed the concern at the opening of a two-day Inter-Regional Stakeholder Review Meeting on newborn care in Bolgatanga.
The event was held under the theme: “Reaching Every Newborn, Countdown to 2030; Don’t Leave me out.”
The programme, which was chaired by the Bonaba, Baba Salifu Aleemyarum, Paramount Chief of the Bongo Traditional Area, attracted stakeholders in the health sector across the three regions of northern Ghana, traditional and religious leaders, some heads of departments, Civil Society Organizations and the media.
Mr Bukari used the opportunity to commend efforts of all stakeholders particularly members of the Regional Newborn and Breastfeeding Sub-Committee and the Champions, for helping to implement the Mother Baby Friendly Health Facility Initiative (MBFHI) for four years.
He said the theme for the programme reinforced one of the priority areas of focus under the National Newborn Health Strategy and Action Plan 2014 to 2018, which focuses on addressing the inequalities in maternal and newborn care, scale-up sustainability and implement a strong Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy to count every baby.
In spite of the few number of doctors in the region, Mr Bukari said the rollout of the pilot project in the region showed an improvement in the mortality indicators, “still birth rate has reduced from 1.5 per 1,000 live births in 2016 to 1.3 per 1,000 live births in 2017.
Newborn deaths have also reduced from 7.7 per 1,000 live births in 2017 to 6.4 per 1,000 live births in 2018.”
He said government is committed to working for a healthy population to guarantee a prosperous nation and would continue to count on the active support of all stakeholders to reach all newborns with quality health care services.
The Paramount Chief, later in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, described the doctor-patient situation at the Regional Hospital as “very serious,” adding that “the situation has bedeviled us for such a long period.”
The Chief, who is also the Chairman of the Hospital’s Advisory Board, said he intends to raise the issue before the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo when he visits the region.
“It is beyond our control, we do not know what to do,” he said.
He appealed to young doctors, especially sons and daughters of the area to accept postings to the region to serve their people.
Dr Winfred Ofosu, the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, in an interview with the GNA, also blamed the shortage partly on inadequate accommodation for doctors in the region, “the problem is a bit complex, even doctors’ accommodation is a problem. If we have accommodation ready, we can keep the doctors”.