The November 2011 Health Summit by the Ministry of Health (MOH), on Wednesday opened with renewed commitment by government and its development partners to accelerate efforts towards the attainment of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, Minister of Health, in an address said the Sector had come a long way with successes, challenges and lessons learnt, and is poised to improve upon its performances over the past year in order to achieve quality and improve health care delivery for all Ghanaians.
The five-day summit, on the theme: “Going Beyond Strategy to Action: Strengthening Health Systems to Accelerate the Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals,” provided the MOH, its agencies, departments, development partners, civil society and other stakeholders in health the opportunity to reflect on performance, map out the way forward and renew their commitment towards the people.
Mr Yieleh Chireh said the theme for the summit signaled the fact that Ghana may be behind in many of the MDG targets and therefore the urgent need for accelerated strides to meet the timeline set by 2015.
He explained that government had over the years dialogued with its partners to help fine-tune programmes to meet the needs of the population saying: “This we have done through several reviews and missions that has identified both management and technical bottlenecks that militated our performance.”
The Minister therefore intends to use the summit as part of the process of refining and finalising the Programme of Work for 2012 ,which had been designed with a number of challenges in mind and critically recognising the continuing challenge of human resources for health.
He said the performance of the health sector had seen a mixture of trends, while several important health indicators such as incidence of guinea worm, tuberculosis success rates, antenatal coverage and supervised deliveries had seen improvement.
Mr Yieleh Chireh however indicated that other programmes such as Expanded Programme on Immunisation seemed to be stagnating.
He also expressed worry over the increasing burden of non-communicable disease, saying the situation should no longer be taken lightly and called for work on programmes to mitigate the risk factors as well as begin systematic investment in management of such diseases.
He noted that despite the investments in revamping the various health training institutions, there are still challenges in the equitable development of trained staff, while some communities and facilities are still operating without qualified health personnel.
“For now the Community Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) programme remains our flagship for reaching the deprived communities,” he said.
He said with the new policy direction of placing community health nurses in the communities with the help of District Assemblies without necessarily waiting for the construction of elaborate CHPS compounds, the scaling up of the CHPS strategy had seen an upward trend.
Mr Yieleh Chireh however mentioned challenges such as inadequate staff housing, deteriorating health infrastructure and obsolete equipment and transport, which remained prominent challenges and required massive investments to resolve.
“As we make progress with the National Health Insurance Scheme, the weak infrastructures are put under more stress leading to congestion and over stretched facilities,” he said.
He said emergency services, which seek to create a seamless patient management system in emergencies is not working as anticipated, however there is considerable progress in setting up the ambulance services with the gradual establishment of ambulance centres across the country.
Dr Daniel Kertesz, WHO Country Representative, urged the Ministry to exploit the unprecedented opportunities that exist to obtain its health objectives and achieve the MDGs by 2015.
Mr Fidelis George Dakpallah, Director of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, MOH said the in the 2012 POW the Ministry intends to work with its agencies to accelerate the scaling up of the Community-based Health Planning and Services under the “close-to-client” service delivery policy.
He said this would involve the construction of 30 CHPS compounds in six regions in addition to making up to 500 new CHIPS functional zones.
He said the expansion would target hard to reach and deprived areas and would aim at ensuring that basic clinical and public health services are maintained and ensure enhanced involvement of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in CHPS programme through orientation and training.
Mr Dakpallah said the Ministry has plans to step up disease control activities, particularly surveillance, in anticipation of the country achieving certification as guinea worm free in future and finalise the process for the introduction of three new vaccines and a second dose of measles to the routine immunisation programme.
He said in line with the theme of the 2012 budget statement, the Ministry would focus on the completion of various health facilities including the Tarkwa District Hospital, the maternity and children’s block of the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, and five polyclinics at Babile and Brefo, Wechau, Ko, Lambusie and Ham in the North. GNA