According to Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman Manu, there have been concerns in the last two years that the interventions and policies outlined to help retain health workers in deprived and underserved areas have not resulted in the desired outcome.
He also expressed concern that these obstacles could jeopardize healthcare delivery in those areas and the overall achievement of universal health coverage.
The Minister stated that a policy shift to improve the processes for developing and implementing actions to address current and future health challenges in deprived and underserved areas has been advocated at several levels.
One of the levels of advocacy is the enactment of the national human resource for health policy and strategies, which was launched in January 2021 to provide the policy directive in managing human resource issues in the health sector, the Minister responded.
The response was in response to Builsa Douth Member of Parliament Dr. Clement Apaak’s urgent question.
The MP inquired about the steps being taken to ensure that Medical Doctors assigned to underserved areas of the country accept their assignments.
He stated that one of the policy’s key components is the development of initiatives to ensure the retention of the health workforce serving in underserved communities and facilities.
According to him, the Ministry of Health, with financial and technical assistance from the World Health Organization and the health systems strengthening accelerator, sought to investigate the factors that influence doctors and other health workers from accepting postings in deprived areas.
To ensure that the Ministry identifies the right factors, the services of consultants, human resource committees, and a technical working group were engaged, and a survey was conducted to collect views from health workers on measures to attract and retain them.
From the survey, the willingness of health workers to accept postings to the deprived areas is based on financial and non-financial incentives.
He said the issue of scholarships, residential accommodation, defined by existing policy, standard medical equipment and transfer after three to five years of service upon request.
He added that the respondents also spoke about 34 per cent of basic salary as an incentive allowance for medical officers in deprived areas, 38 per cent incentive as basic allowance for moderately deprived areas and 40 per cent of basic salary incentive allowance for severely deprived areas.
As a result of the survey, a technical review is underway to work on the proposed survey findings.
He stated that the Ministry is collaborating with stakeholders to determine the best way to proceed with the incentive package requested.
He said that following the outcome, a submission would be made to Cabinet for consideration.
He indicated the Ministry would also seek parliamentary approval for the incentive package if approved by Cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Minister says it has started advertising vacancies in various hospitals to recruit and fill these vacancies with the financial clearance issued to the Ministry of Health.
He said 110 of these doctors have accepted to take postings in deprived communities.
In a follow-up question, MP Dr. Apaak said the Minister failed to provide firm timelines for when these policy directives would be implemented.
He said that none of the ten doctors assigned to the Upper East Region took up their positions in 2021, and only five have taken up their positions in 2022.
In its response, the Ministry assured the House that, having received the consultant’s report, they were now evaluating it and that, at the appropriate time, he would present a memo to Cabinet for consideration.