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The plight of Ghana’s new generation of nurses
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Opinions of Thursday, 10 June 2010

Columnist: Yereku, Michael

The plight of Ghana’s new generation of nurses

By Michael Yereku

I hope the Minister for Health, Dr. Benjamin Kunbour and those in charge of the Regional Ministry of Health in Kumasi will have a chance to read this article and resolve the problem I am about to address.

Recently, I visited a friend in the garden city, Kumasi. He asked me to accompany him and his daughter who has recently completed nursing school and passed the Ghana Nurses and Midwife Council licensing examination to the Regional Ministry of Health. Also, the daughter has finished her national service rotation program. As a result, they were going to the Regional Ministry of Health for the daughter to purchase forms needed to select her choice of hospital to begin her professional career as a registered nurse.

When we arrived at the Regional Health Ministry, there was a long line of nursing graduates seeking this coveted application forms. After a long wait and no progress on the line, we decided to talk to the workers in the office. This was the moment my friend and his daughter’s predicament began. We asked the workers at the office why the line is stagnant and not moving, we were told that the woman in charge of selling the application forms to the nursing graduates was at lunch and she did not take her cell phone. Therefore, they did not know when she will return. I released that the bureaucratic frustration you find all over Ghana anytime you want something done at the government level has just began. I call it “Konabra” syndrome.

The workers in the office did not seem to care about the plight of Ghana’s next generation of nurses. The workers were unprofessional to them with no urgency to help the newly minted nurses. They were simply nonchalant as one was reading a newspaper and the other woman was talking on her cell phone. At the same time, these anxious looking young nurses talked among themselves about their fears of not getting these application forms. Some of them came from distant towns outside Kumasi and the “Konabra” syndrome was going to eat into whatever funds they have with them for transportation.

After waiting over two hours, they were told that there were no application forms for sale; the workers said they are waiting for orders from Accra before the next sale. The workers stated that they do not know when another supply will arrive; thus, these young nurses should keep checking in once a while. When asked about a phone number to call to inquire from time to time if the forms have arrived, the workers emphasized that there were no direct phone number and that those who need the forms badly should keep returning to the Health Ministry to check every now and then; “Konabra” syndrome.

When I travel to other nations in Europe and America, I am amazed about the speed of service and courtesy; however, when you are in your own country, it is totally a different story. Migration of healthcare professionals within the global village is omnipresent and the talent is gravitating to greener pastures with the right infrastructures, good working environment and great incentive packages.

Nowadays, countries like Great Britain, United States, and Canada are attracting nurses and other healthcare professionals from the developing world. Instead of Ghana doing all it can to create auspicious environment for these next generation of nurses, these eager young nurses are going through enormous frustration. From what I witnessed at the Health Ministry in Kumasi where these nursing graduates were being treated with disdain and lackadaisical attitude, I wonder what they will do if attractive incentive entice them in the foreseeable future from other countries? Your guess is as good as mine.

According to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization, Ghana has about 3,240 physicians and 19,707 nurses and midwifery personnel. With an estimated population of 23 million, that works out to be population to physician ratio of 7,098 people for each physician and 1,150 people for each nurse. As compared to United States and Japan, where the ratios of population to physician and nurses are 100, 410 and 106 and 473, respectively, we lag significantly behind in the number of health professionals taking care of our people.

With above statistics, we have no time to waste and Kumasi Regional Ministry of Health should stop frustrating young nurses and make these application forms available to them so that they can select hospitals and interview to begin their careers. It is shameful to interfere with the future of our youth because some greedy civil servants are either looking for bribes or do not have the interest and the health of the nation in mind.

It is inexcusable for the Regional Ministry of Health to say that there are inadequate supply of application forms. Responses like “we are not selling application forms now until we receive orders from above or Accra” is preposterous!! Who resides above? Do we need God to set up a website and rain downloadable application forms from above? Or is God residing in Accra and will eventually rain forms on Kumasi. We should stop playing with people’s lives and deliver the necessary services our people deserve.

The nursing graduates who do not have these application forms have been told unless the Regional Ministry receives “orders from above,” these nursing graduates have to stay home and wait almost a year to get these forms. What is going on in our dear country? This is ridiculous!! How many of our people have to die in our hospitals without nursing care and how many of our young nursing graduates have to remain unemployed before the “order from above” reaches the ground for these elusive application forms to be adequately made available?

We are wasting away the talent of our youth and we have to recognize that the future belongs to the youth. The decisions we make today greatly shapes the future where our youth have to compete with the youths of Asia, Europe, America and the rest of the world. We cannot afford to put them further behind. Already, we are miles behind and there is no time to waste.

Unless we create the necessary infrastructures and the enabling environment for our people to flourish, we will continue to lag behind the global competition for talent and technical know-how. All the great civilizations of our time have been built through hard work, discipline, planning, talent recognition, vision and acquisition of global best practices for process improvement. We seem unwilling to take this path to nurturing talent, building infrastructures and institutions to enhance the growth of our people and ensure a better life for all Ghanaians.

Why do we keep frustrating our people with basic services that should be provided with a smile? Traveling around the nation, one realizes our people deserve better. We can’t provide 24 hour electricity, we can’t provide 24 hour running water, we can’t name all our streets, we can’t cover our gutters where mosquitoes breeds and spread malaria, we can’t stop trash burning polluting our air, we can’t provide application forms for our nursing graduates. What can those in leadership position do for the people of Ghana? It seems like all the 23 million people are waiting for the mythical invisible and invincible “orders from above.”

This is unacceptable and the solution is simply. I respectfully ask President Mills to direct his Minister of Health, Dr. Benjamin Kunbour to make sure these application forms are made available throughout the country so that our young nurses around the nation who have passed their licensing examinations and completed their national service can get these forms to select hospitals of their choice for interviews and begin their careers and render much needed health services to our people.

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