Stakeholders urged to ensure equity in doctors’ distribution in rural-Ghana
The World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Ghana, Dr Francis Kasolo has called for concerted action to bridge the equity gap in the distribution of doctors between rural and urban areas Ghana.
Delivering the address at the 64th Annual General Conference of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) on the theme: “Doctor Distribution Dilemma – The case of Ghana and Its Underserved Areas, Dr Kasolo described the unfair distribution of doctors and other health care workers across the country as a threat to efforts towards improving the health and wellbeing of all people and urged all stakeholders to take action immediately to address that.
“The inequitable distribution of doctors between rural and urban areas is now a crisis. It seriously undermines our progress towards Universal Health Coverage and we must all work together to address it”, Dr Kasolo noted.
Ghana has made tremendous gains in the doctor to population ration, improving from one doctor to 17,899 in 2005 to one doctor to 6,500 in 2020.
However, available data also show that 42% of the doctors are in Accra alone, and up to 81.3% are concentrated in 5 regions such as Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Northern and Volta regions which includes the Teaching Hospitals with over 60% of all the doctors in Ghana.
“Over the years, Ghana has made progress in improving the doctor to population ratio, but we must remember that the unfair distribution of these doctors leads to unmet health needs in rural and remote areas resulting in a decreased life expectancy; higher preventable maternal and under-5 mortality rates,” Dr Francis Kasolo added.
He identified migration and retention challenges as some of the causes of shortages of doctors in Ghana and recommended some key interventions in line with WHO guideline on health workforce development, attraction, recruitment and retention in rural and remote areas.
“Providing differential incentives for those working in rural and under-served areas and re-engineering the training and regulation of doctors to include extensive exposure to rural and under-served areas will help improve the situation,” he said.
“We must also provide deliberate opportunities for the admission of medical students from rural and deprived areas and providing financial support for their training.”
WHO has been supporting the Government of Ghana to improve the maldistribution of doctors and other healthcare workers in Ghana.
This includes an assistance to develop the multi-criteria deprivation index to be used to objectively classify the districts according to their relative levels of deprivation.
This when implemented can address both monetary and non-pecuniary aspects of encouraging retention in rural and under-served areas.In addition, WHO is helping the development and implementation of health sector staffing norm whilst also providing support for training needs assessment of health workers.
WHO with funding from the UK Department of Health and Social Care, (UK-DHSC) is also currently helping Ghana to embark on a health labour market analysis to contribute to future polices and strategies in addressing the health worker challenges, especially the needs of rural and under-served areas.
Dr. Kasolo pledged continuous support from WHO to Ghana in ensuring that no one anywhere is left behind in the access to healthcare services.