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General News of Friday, 30 March 2001

Source: GNA

Ghana Medical School short of staff

ACCRA, March 30 -- A brain drain in the country's health sector has left the University of Ghana Medical School (UGMS) among the hardest hit, with only 95 academic staff presently at post, out of the required 183.

Furthermore, Ghana News Agency (GNA) Thursday reported that a quarter of those presently teaching would retire in a few years, while 23 out of the current number were on post-retirement contract.

UGMS dean and vice dean, respectively Prof. Clifford Tagoe and Prof. Albert Amoah, blamed staff shortage mostly on poor conditions of work and the lack of teaching equipment as well as other shortfalls that turn away qualified professionals.

They said that the last time money was given to the school to run its academic work was in June last year.

"We only received money for salaries and we have to find ways of providing various teaching material," Tagoe said, adding "there has been little expansion of facilities and buildings, with lecture halls meant to accommodate 40 students now seating more than a hundred."

The dean said the surgery department alone needs about 42 lecturers but has only 18 at post.

"Pharmacology has three out of the six required while micro- biology has four out of 10 needed," he continued, citing as well Haematology that has two lectures instead of the six required.

Prof. Tagoe said as part of efforts to address the manpower problem, the school was reviewing its post-graduate programmes to assist in the training of more professionals.

He explained that because the school recruits only specialists and consultants, those in private practise were sometimes recruited for part-time teaching. He added, though, that most specialists turn down such offers because service conditions were not the best.

The dean noted that corporate bodies and companies have been supporting some of their programmes, but insisted that government support was crucial in sustaining the school.

At a broader scale, the staff situation in Ghana's health sector was reported quite precarious.

Between 1969 when the Ghana Medical School was opened and 1994, about 1,280 doctors were trained there, but a review of the records in 1998 showed that less than 430 of this number were left in the country.

Observers note that in the last decade the total number of doctors practising in the country has not changed even as the Medical School turns out more than 100 doctors each year. In Ghana currently, there is only one doctor to 16,000 people and one nurse to 3,500 people.