The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Filial Health Foundation (FHF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Dr. Ernest K.P. Kwarko, has appealed to the government to urgently institute incentive packages, which will entice doctors and nurses to work in remote areas to help fight against neglected and undeserving diseases.
That doctors, and health workers in general, should be given special packages to work in the remote areas of the country, as is being espoused by the Medical Doctor is not news. What is news is the fact that despite the repeated calls on governments to institute such measures, nothing concrete has come out of it.
We are saying this because, apart from Dr Kwarko, several others have made similar suggestions in the past, but our leaders read them for the sake of reading.
Recently, the government introduced a novelty in our health delivery system by signing a contract with Zipline, an American company, to deliver essential medicines, including blood, to the rural areas, using drone technology.
The contract, which has already been approved by Parliament, has generated heated debates in the country, with the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) calling for the cancelation of the contract, which it claims is not in the interest of Ghana.
Since Ghana is a democratic state, the GMA, and others who are against the Zipline contract, have every right to do so. The Chronicle, however, thinks is it a good policy that must be pursued to the benefit of our rural people.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of our compatriots are dying avoidable deaths in the rural areas because they lack or do not have access to essential drugs. But, in the case of those living in the urban centres, the story is different, as they have access to quality healthcare so long as they can afford it.
To us, therefore, the debate over the Zipline contract shouldn’t have arisen at all, except one can produce evidence to prove that the country has been shortchanged. But, whilst commending the government for this laudable initiative, we think it would be out of place if the health worker is ignored in the equation. Those who have travelled to a typical Ghanaian village will attest to the fact that essential amenities are virtually nonexistent.
We agree that doctors in particular have taken the Hippocratic Oath to serve their people, but at the same time, how can we expect someone who has tested the urban life from his or her infancy up to university level to go and stay in the rural area where there are no electricity and proper schools for their children to attend?
Our television screens are replete with stories of how doctors, nurses and teachers struggle to go about their duties in the deprived areas of the country. And with the trauma they are going through, should the government still pay them the same salary their counterparts in the urban centres are earning?
The answer is obviously no, and this is where the incentives Dr Kwarko is talking about come in. The Chronicle is, therefore, calling on the government to seriously look at Dr Kwarko’s suggestion and come out with appetising incentives that would force health workers to accept postings to the rural areas.
The situation where health facilities in the urban centres are overcrowded with staff, whilst those in the rural areas are crying for more, is not a god practice and must stop now!