President promises first private medical school support

More than half a century after the first public medical school launched in Ghana, President John Mahama has opened the first private medical school. He said the Family Health Medical School would boost the admission of qualified students and ease a national doctor shortage.

“The high rate of rejection of many students with good grades applying for admission to our public medical schools with limited facilities, has become worrying not only for frustrated applicants but also for parents, guardians and the general public,” Mahama said.

There were many cases of students with 6 A’s and 2 B’s who were not accepted for medical training and this was “unfortunate”, said the president, adding: “We must create more space in order that we can absorb all those who qualify to be able to study medicine.”

The first public medical school opened in October 1962 and became the only training facility for medical professionals in Ghana and other West African nations. Subsequently four other public medical schools have been established.

Doctor shortage

However, Ghana still suffers a serious shortage of medical doctors.

“The doctor-to-patient population ratio is one doctor to 10,452 citizens, according to the 2012 annual report on the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (2010-2013). This falls short of our target of one doctor per 9,700 of our population,” Mahama said.

He added that the doctor-to-patient ratio recommended by the Commonwealth, of which Ghana is a member, is one doctor to 5,000 people. Thus, Ghana had a severe deficit of doctors.

“Government has over the years been establishing more medical schools for training medical doctors in order to address the disparity”, said Mahama, mentioning the recent commissioning of the University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta regional capital, Ho. “The University of Cape Coast’s School of Medical Sciences has also been established.”

This brought the number of medical schools set up by government to five, also including the medical schools at the University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the University for Development Studies in Tamale.

Also, taking the doctor-to-patient ratio at face value was deceptive because of the uneven spread of medical personnel across the country, with proportionately many more doctors in urban areas. There were also more doctors in the south than in the north. A few years ago, the whole of the Upper West region had only 12 doctors to serve its entire population.

“So one of the challenges we face is not just to churn out more doctors but to ensure that our doctors are evenly spread across the country so that all our people can expect good service.”

Mahama said the challenges of a fast-paced, technology-driven world demanded that medical education initiatives kept abreast of modern methods of training.

“This makes medical training capital-intensive. This weight cannot rest on the school alone. I use this platform to appeal to the various sectors of society to assist to enable such a noble project achieve its objectives.” The government, the president promised, would “definitely play its role in helping nurture this little baby to grow”.