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Ghana had about 1600 doctors in 2004 as it did in 1969 – WikiLeaks

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The brain drain in Ghana’s health care system is not getting any better, a US Embassy cable created in 2004 and published on August 30, 2011 by whistle-blower site WikiLeaks shows.

The cable reveals that while Ghana had about 1600 doctors in 1969, 35 years later in 2004 the number still remained the same in spite of the fact that the country has been training doctors over the period.

According to the cable, “Ghana’s shortage of medical personnel is impacting patient care, burdening the economy and threatening to cripple the health care system.”

While admitting that brain drain is not a new phenomenon to developing nations like Ghana, the cable indicates that, “However, the pace in Ghana has quickened.”

It says Ghana graduates 150 doctors and 600 nurses per year, but loses an average of 72 doctors and 216 nurses a year to migration, according to the WHO; other statistics show the losses are much higher.

The cable noted that Ghana produced 2000-3000 doctors since 1969, yet has about the same number of doctors now–1600, including foreign doctors–as it did then. Accordingly, the doctor to population ratio has worsened, while World Bank data show this contrasts Niger, Malawi, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso where the ratio improved substantially as the number of doctors kept up with population growth.

Citing Ghana government statistics which indicates that 31 percent of health professionals trained in Ghana between 1993 and 2002 have left–an exodus of 3,100 people, including 600 doctors, it also cites statistics that say Ghana’s nurse shortage is also severe; and MOH estimates that say the number has dropped from 15,000 to 11,000 since the late 1980’s.

The cable says the most affected part of the country is the northern part.

According to the cable, the ratio is most alarming in Ghana’s less developed northern regions where there is one doctor for every 66,000 people. In October 2003, the Ghana Medical Association (GMA)it says reported that in the northern two thirds of Ghana, there were 5 dentists, 3 surgeons, one obstetrician, and no pediatricians. Dr. Sagoe reports that northern medical centers experience staffing shortages of 70 percent, compared to 50 percent in Accra. MOH estimates suggest that by 2006, Ghana will face shortfalls of 1800 doctors, 6700 nurses, 6600 midwives and 1400 pharmacists.

The cable cited a 1999 study which showed that nearly 55 percent of migrating medical personnel from Ghana went to the UK, with 35 percent to the US and others to South Africa, Canada and Saudi Arabia. About 1000 Ghanaian doctors live in the US, with 600 in New York alone.

Some of the factors causing migration of health care professionals the cable identified as low salaries even with overtime allowances.

It also cited limited career development and delays in promotions.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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  1. useless leaders bring a clause in the constitution so that these Doctors cannot leave until serve for 5 to 10years before thcan be awarded their degree.

  2. useless comment indeed for the leaders you call useless!

  3. What is the MOE/GES doing about opening doctoring courses to non science students.

  4. I agree wid GG……de salaries n allowancies shud b considered