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Opinions of Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Columnist: Desmond Apenteng

The Ghana Medical and Dental Council election and matters arising

File photo: The Ghana Medical and Dental Council logo File photo: The Ghana Medical and Dental Council logo

The Medical and Dental Council of Ghana is a statutory agency that regulates the standards of training and practice of medicine and dentistry in Ghana.

Established by the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act, 2013 (Act 857),
the council is to secure in the public interest the highest standards in the training and practice of medicine and dentistry in Ghana.

Currently there are eight thousand nine hundred and fifty seven (8957) Medical/Dental practitioners and four thousand two hundred and forty ( 4240) Physician Assistants/ Certified Registered Anaesthetist who are in good standing with the council.

The Electoral Commission of Ghana on the 11th of June 2021 will conduct elections for registered Medical, Dental Practitioners, Physician Assistants and Certified Registered Anaesthetists to elect members of the Medical and Dental Council governing board.

Section 28 (1) and (c) of the Health Professions Regulatory Bodied Act, 2013 (Act 857) and Chapter 11 (4) of the Standing Orders provide that the Council shall include one Registered Medical Practitioner and one Registered Dental Practitioner elected by Medical and Dental Practitioners and one Physician Assistant or Certified Registered Anaesthetist elected by Physician Assistants or Certified Anaesthetists.

The mission of the council is to:

1. Ensure high level of training of medical and dental practitioners

2. Determine the adequacy and quality of service facilities

3. Prescribe and enforce the highest standards of professional conduct among practitioners

4. Promote the CME of medical and dental practitioners And lastly

5. Protect the rights of clients/patients

However there are more questions that seems to be begging for answers:

Readers want to know why the council continue to refer to only Doctors as Medical and Dental practitioners, do the Physician Assistants also practice medicine and dentistry? If no, then the public will want to know what these cadre of medical practitioners do practice.

It is instructive to note that the council currently charges every Physician Assistant GHC330 whiles every Doctor pays GHC440 to renew their professional licenses in other to practice medicine and dentistry in the country.

The question being asked is how does the council arrived at the amount to charge for the retention of the licenses and what are the monies being used for?

The council also charges other exorbitant fees for induction of newly qualified Doctors and physician Assistants and these inductions are delayed till the calendar year is ending and few months after the induction the practitioners are made to pay additional money to renew licenses that have been issued few months back

They also charge over GHC4000 as examination fees for Ghanaians who travel outside to train as Doctors and and are back into the country but nobody knows what they use the monies accrued for.

The Medical and Dental council stated among others, its mission to ensure high level of training of Medical and Dental practitioners. Ghanaian taxpayers want to know if this also involved Physician Assistants?

This is because there has been frantic effort by the leadership of the Ghana Medical Association through its members on the Medical and Dental Council Board (reference is made to the Chairman of the council, the Registrar, the representative of Medical Doctors and the Dentist, past and present) to limit the content of curriculum for the Physician Assistants program of the Universities currently training Physician Assistants.

This is aimed at widening the knowledge gap between a Physician Assistant and the Doctors to the disadvantage of the Ghanaian public which the council claimed to be protecting.

Few years ago trainers of Physician Assistants from Universities across the country led by the late Dr. Benjamin Aflakpui met the council at the college of Physicians and Surgeons in Accra.

At the meeting the trainers proposed to start teaching Graduate Physician Assistants to do caesarean section so to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the country. The proposal met resistance from members of the Medical and Dental Council present at the meeting.

Their reason was that the Physician Assistants do not have a good Human Anatomy background to perform the procedure. But it will interest readers to know that Physician Assistants in Kenya who train for just 3 years are able to do caesarean sections and hysterectomies without any complications but MDC Ghana is saying after 4 years of University education followed with 1 year clinical internship in an accredited hospital, the Ghanaian Physician Assistant is not properly trained to do caesarean section.

I see this development as an indictment on the integrity of the Professors and Doctors who train these Physician Assistants. It’s either they deliberately withheld vital information from these brilliant students so to widen the knowledge gap between them and Doctors or they just decided to fail the country Ghana.

It will interest readers to know that this act of the council has nothing to do with the MDC trying to protect the public interest but Doctors on the council protecting their personal and mother Association’s (GMA) interest to the detriment of the Ghanaian taxpayer and the poor farmer who work to pay their monthly salaries.

The fact is if the council allowed the Physician Assistants to be trained to do caesarean section, most of the Doctors will become irrelevant because some of the Doctors cannot even do these procedures.

Many Ghanaians want to know why the council decided to give only one slot to Physician Assistants to share with Certified Anaesthetists but a slot each for Doctors and Dentist whiles the Chairman and Registrar positions remain the preserve of Doctors giving the Doctors a majority on the council board?

This act by the council has made the Physician Assistant program and profession unattractive and many Physicians Assistants are unwilling to disclose their identity for fear of disrespect and intimidation.

My investigations confirmed that the registrar of the council is always appointed by the Government of the day. The board also has a representative from the Attorney General's Department and they both represent government on the council.

Could it be that government is aware of this development that has persisted over the years?

The Medical And Dental council for years instituted professional career development programs (CPD) for all practitioners and each is to accrue at least 10 credit points in order to renew his/her license each year. This include Physician Assessments in the country. Some of the programs can cost as high as GHC2000.

Physician Assistants who pay this amount and even participated in the programs (MDC accredited) are not allowed to practice what they learn because MDC says they are not Medical and Dental practitioners.

The council has become an intimidating tool which Doctors in the country are using to intimidate Physician Assistants in the country.

As the council prepare to hold its maiden election come 11th June this year, I wish to call on the powers that be to:

1. As a matter of urgency take steps to amend Section 28 (1) and (c) of the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act, 2013 (Act 857) and chapter 11 (4) of the standing orders to give equal representation to all professionals being regulated by the council to ensure a fair playing field so one does not see the other as a puppet to be bullied around

2. The chairmanship and registrar positions in the council should not be the preserve of only Doctors but any member in good standing with the council who has the requisite qualifications

3. Take steps to give Physician Assistants their own regulatory council so to avoid the sabotage from Doctors who continue to see them as a threat and so keep controlling the council and preventing professional career advancement of the Physician Assistants to the disadvantage of the patient who we all swear to take care of.

4. Take steps to fast track the establishment of the Ghana college of Physician Assessments to train Physician Assistant Specialist.

5. By extension ensure that all administrative positions within the health delivery system (the ministry of health, HeFRA, NHIA, Ghana Health Services) seizes to be the preserve of only Doctors but any Health Professional being it a Pharmacist, a Nurse, Physician Assistant, a laboratory Scientist, etc. With the requisite qualifications and brainpower to manage the institutions be given the opportunity.

If these are taken into consideration Ghana will be the beacon and leading example to the rest of Africa if not the world.

God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.