There seem to be no end in sight for the closure of the development gap between the north and the south. In today’s Public Agenda we highlight the current state of health provision in Ghana and discovers a worrying trend that the three regions in the north are suffering from doctor deficiency compared with other regions in Ghana.
A recent study by a non-governmental organization, SEND-Ghana, suggests that the doctor-to- patient ratio remains unreasonably high in the three regions of the north as compared to the regions in the southern part of the country.
This revelation depicts a disturbing trend in which citizens of the three regions in the northern parts of the country are treated like second class citizens. Available statistics show that in 2014 and 2015, the number of doctors in Greater Accra was over 1,000 compared to less than 50 in the Upper East as well as Upper West regions. Even though Greater Accra has a population of over 4million, each doctor took care of fewer patients as compared to doctors in the three regions in the north.
Access to basic health care is a right. Successive governments have tinkered with the problem of access to health care, moving away from the free health that Ghanaians enjoyed in the era of the Convention Peoples Party under Kwame Nkrumah to a cash and carry system under the era of the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), and now to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which promised much, but seems to be delivering little in terms of affordable health care.
Nationally, health provision and citizens access to health is a problem. But in the North, it is a disaster that requires immediate attention. There is a general problem of the lack of qualified doctors, but the Ghana Health Service can allocate the available doctors in a way that does not discriminate against some regions. Affirmative action should be used to determine the needs of the various regions.
In the meantime, the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of health should act with urgency to address the lack of doctors in the three regions in the North. It is a matter that cannot wait.