Plans by the Akufo-Addo administration to send 375 nurses to work in Barbados whereas there are Ghanaian hospitals that could be opened to absorb them smacks of political trickery, Ghana’s former Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mr Victor Smith has said.
Mr Smith noted that at the moment, the nurse to patient ratio in Ghana stands at 1: 1,000, a situation that requires that the government employ more nurses instead of exporting them outside, which to him doesn’t make sense.
President Nana Akufo-Addo recently, in principle, agreed to a request by the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, to send some three hundred and seventy-five Ghanaian nurses to the Caribbean country to work in a number of their public medical facilities.
This came to the fore when President Nana Akufo-Addo and Prime Minister Mottley held bilateral talks on Friday, 14 June 2019, in Bridgetown, Barbados, after the Ghanaian leader paid a day’s working visit to that country.
Addressing a joint press conference in the aftermath of the bilateral discussions, and with Barbados facing an acute nursing shortage, the Barbadian Prime Minister stated that: “We have indicated that we are searching for just under 400 nurses, so it is not a small number, and we really do believe that this is a wonderful opportunity of co-operation between our two countries.”
In addition, she noted that there was also an initial promise to secure the nurses, and provide joint education programmes going forward, all in an attempt to secure Barbados’ healthcare sector.
For his part, President Akufo-Addo indicated that: “We have a surplus of nurses in Ghana, and placing them all in our public health system is one of my headaches. There have been a lot [of nurses] produced, which, for several years, we have not been able to do anything with.”
He continued, “So, I am going back. I will be back in Accra on Monday, and, the week after, the Prime Minister will hear from me on this matter of nurses.”
However, speaking on Ghana Yensom on Accra100.5FM hosted by Kwabena Prah Jnr (The Don) on Monday, 17 June 2019, Mr Smith, a former spokesperson for former President Jerry John Rawlings, said the move is aimed at scoring political points.
He explained that the Mahama administration built several hospitals across the country, including the University of Ghana Medical Centre, which are yet to be operationalised by the Akufo-Addo administration.
If all these hospitals start operating, he said, they would be able to employ all the nurses who are unemployed to ensure smooth delivery of health service to Ghanaians.
“Don’t we need the 375 nurses in Ghana? The ratio of nurses to the population in Ghana is 1: 1000. One nurse to look after one thousand people. So, does this idea make sense? It doesn’t”.
“Under John Dramani Mahama, we built hospitals but this government is not operationalising them and that is making the nurses jobless. We have trained them with our tax money but the hospitals have not been commissioned to employ these nurses and we are rather sending them to Barbados.
“It means patients in Ghana do not deserve these nurses; that is what the president is telling us. The University of Ghana Hospital built by John Mahama can employ a good number of these 375 nurses. The hospitals in other places, when commissioned can employ all these nurses who are unemployed. The nurses will get jobs to do here to serve Ghanaians first if we start operationalising the hospitals.”
Earlier in the year, on 15 April 2019, health minister Kweku Agyeman-Manu said: “Our doctor/population and nurse/population ratios have shown significant improvement. Using only nurses from the public sector, Ghana has exceeded the WHO’s recommended nurse to population ratio of 1 nurse to 1,000 population. Ours today is 1 nurse to 839 of our population, which is lower than the WHO recommended ratio,” he said.
Mr Agyemang-Manu was speaking at the 2019 Health Summit, which was held in Accra at the time.
Dubbed, “Ghana’s Movement Towards Universal Health Coverage”, the summit was to review the performance of the health sector in the implementation of the 2018 Programme of Work to inform policy, moving forward.