The Ghana Association of Medical Herbalists (GAMH) at the weekend called on the Government to fully integrate its members and the practice into the national healthcare system.
The Association is also calling on the authorities at the Ministry of Health to lead, what they refer to as a “consensus-building and policy development process” to effect the integration and to finalise the issue of financial clearance for its members.
These came to light at the end of a day’s self-appraisal workshop organized by the GAMH for its members in Accra to iron out challenges facing the Association and how it could be addressed.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency at the end of the workshop, Mr Bernard Kofi Turkson, President of GAMH, noted that though the total number of the 122 professional herbalists had been properly trained since the inception of the academic programme at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), they were yet to be recognised at the various health facilities.
He explained that a person only qualified to become a medical herbalist after completing a four-year degree programme at the KNUST and a two-year internship preparation at the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (CSRIPM), Akuapem Mampong in the Eastern Region.
Mr Turkson expressed disappointment that the country spent huge sums of the tax-payers money in training medical herbalists but the professionals faced a number of hurdles when trying to practice because they had not been fully integrated into the country’s healthcare delivery system.
Some of the challenges he cited were inadequate herbal medicine units in government hospitals, lack of key stakeholder-awareness of course content for medical herbalists and non-existence of operational manual to define the mode of operations of the professionals when they were posted.
Mr Turkson expressed worry that out of the 122 professional medical herbalists trained, only two were operating in government hospitals adding, the rest were either working at private hospitals, were into banking and financial institutions or had migrated outside the country.
He said currently, Some trainee-medical herbalists undergoing internship programme at the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine at Akuapem Mampong and at the Tetteh Quarshie Hospital in the Eastern Region, had not been paid for 13 long months.
Mr Turkson observed that Ghana stood a critical chance of losing out on lots of revenues if steps were not taken to fully integrate medical herbalists into the healthcare system.
He said according to a World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recent report, more than 80 per cent of the world’s population depended on herbs for medicinal use.
“In 2007 alone, according to WHO, more than 60 billion dollars was accrued as revenue for the industry.”
Mr Turkson said if medical herbalists were integrated, demand on herbs would increase and Ghana could rake in more revenue from the sector.
He argued out that the prospects in the herbal sector would create additional jobs, attract more farmers to grow more herbs and entrepreneurs could sell their certified medicines to hospitals and other medical institutions.
Mr Turkson added that the process would ensure safe and efficacious herbal medicine in the pharmaceutical industry and thus eliminate charlatans from the system. GNA