FOR the second year running, Ghana recorded no polio infection. Consequently, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) is going ahead for a polio-free certificate for the country.
Other strides have been made in communicable diseases such as whooping cough and TB, with drastic decreases in their incidence.
The Deputy Director-General of the GHS, Dr George Amofah, who gave these indicators about the health sector, said improvement in the incidence of those diseases had caused a dearth of cases for study by medical students.
He was speaking at a panel discussion on, “Promoting Health for All: The Challenge”, at the 59th New Year School in Accra over the weekend.
Another positive indicator about the sector, he said, was the regenerative health and nutrition programme as an overall policy and strategy for the promotion of health.
He explained the focus of the programme as promoting healthy lifestyles through adequate nutrition, increased water intake and the promotion of other life-enhancing practices.
On challenges, Dr Amofa cited the location of the country in the tropics, a location that was conducive for the reproduction of all types of vectors and disease, and also its location right in the centre of the world as some of the general factors that posed challenges in the health sector.
He said Ghana’s location right at the centre of the world, and within six hours’ flight from most countries of the world, made it easy for diseases found elsewhere to be transmitted quickly, posing a surveillance challenge.
That was why the country had put in place a surveillance system for epidemic preparedness that included community-surveillance preparedness.
Dr Amofa said improving health depended on all — individuals, all ministries, non-governmental and all governmental agencies.
The General-Secretary of the Ghana Registered Nurses Association, Mr Kweku Asante-Krobea, giving a nurse’s perspective on the challenges of promoting health for all, said poverty, social and behavioural factors, high levels of illiteracy and ignorance impeded optimum health in the country.
In particular reference to nursing, he said its strategic position in the continuum of care was not recognised.
Mr Asante-Krobea pointed out that in a healthcare setting, nurses usually provided the majority of care, up to about 80 per cent, but said recognition of professional excellence eluded them.
That was because instead of blending knowledge and innovation to achieve professional excellence, nurses’ work was defined for them by traditionally dominant groups in the healthcare system.
He said some nurses themselves perpetuated that system, impeding professional development, also at the expense of the client’s interest.
He also mentioned the lack of adequate compensation, few opportunities for career advancement in the country, unfavourable working conditions and the lack of a policy to give nurses control over their practice as challenges.
Mr Asante-Krobea proposed a collaborative effort among all health professionals in their inter-disciplinary approach to patient care and policies to address the education, upgrading, adequate recognition and compensation of nurses.
An interesting question raised during the discussions was the linkage between auxiliary health workers, under the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) of the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment, and the GHS.
Dr Amofa commended the programme, saying that the GHS saw it as a good one that would ensure the services of the youth for basic duties in healthcare facilities but said those employed under the scheme had to be properly integrated into the healthcare service.
However, Mr Asante-Krobea said information reaching the nurses showed that auxiliary health workers under the NYEP had been employed to replace nurses if they agitated on their conditions of service and embarked on strike.
He said that would have dire implications for the country’s health service.
Some participants, who did not agree with Mr Asante-Krobea, protested, shouting, “No, no, no!”
Prof Aaron N. L. Lawson, the Provost of the College of Health Sciences of the University of Ghana, Legon, who chaired the function, said the country had to work hard to overcome the challenges but commended the strides made so far.
DAILY GRAPHIC, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2008