Health News of Monday, 30 July 2012

Source: Mathias Aboba

Service Providers Need Repositioning To Increase Service

Up Take For Family Planning.

Story by: Mathias Aboba


In the wake of the Minister of Health recent announcement of the introduction of a national free family planning program in Ghana advocates of reproductive health rights and women development have expressed hope and hilarity for the bold step taken by the government, but the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services Dr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams has cautioned that unless health services providers reposition to address service standards requirements and the complex needs of clients the policy will not take us anywhere.

Dr. Awooonor-Williams made the observation when he was addressing District and Municipal Directors of Health and Medical Directors of Hospitals in the Upper East Region. “Personally I was very happy and I believe all of you as health workers were happy to hear the recent announcement by the Minister of Health Hon Alban Bagbin that the government is introducing a free national family planning program. But I can tell you that we have a challenge and until we are able to overcome that challenge we have no course to celebrate” the Regional Director cautioned.

“It is obvious” Dr. Awoonor-Williams continued “that as service providers we need to reposition ourselves to render quality, adequate, and accessible family planning services to families and individuals for whom the program has been designed: we need massive refresher training for all Public Health Nurses and frontlines staff. This is necessary to sharpen their skills and re-awoken their spirit and commitment to register clients properly, disperse products professionally and monitor clients consistency so as to help them achieve healthy reproductive live” he added.

Dr Awoonor-Williams described the government’s decision to introduce free family planning as a timely and pragmatic step towards the achieve of the MDG 4 and 5 since evidence shows that family planning can help prevent over 25% of maternal mortality as well as contribute significantly to improvement in child health.

He said even though the Ministry is yet to come out with comprehensive guidelines on the new policy, the GHS needs to be doing some quick thinking and realignment in preparation for the massive take off of the program. The Regional Director hinted that there are encouraging indicators in reports from the three districts in the Upper East Region namely: Talensi Nabdam, Builsa and Garu Tempane where free family planning service is being piloted prior to the new policy.

Studies have shown that unmet need for family planning in Ghana is about 35%. Unmet need is a measure of the proportion of women in child bearing age who wish to space or limit child birth but yet not currently using any form of family planning method. In Ghana family planning service utilization is reported to be low among illiterate families and individuals as well as in poor and rural communities where children are deemed economic resources and tradition and culture credit large family size.

Against this backdrop reproductive health advocates believe the cost of family planning devices is one of the key factors behind the low service utilization particularly in rural communities. It is in this light that the decision to take off the cost on family planning services by government is hoped to trigger huge leap in services up-take when the program takes off. But as pre-empted, with the government commitment emerging the mantle could be shifted to the GHS who is required to put in place the right environment to support and deliver the expected results.

The meeting of District and Municipal Directors of Health and Medical Directors, according to the Regional Health Director is a service improvement strategy designed by the health directorate to provide platform for periodic review of services delivery in the region. The forum discusses services gaps and “low points” and suggests prompt actions for implementation. Some of the major issues discussed at the recent meeting included equipment needs in the region, staff development and transfers, prudent financial administration and resource management, as well as key health service indicators including maternal mortality.

The Regional Health Director seized the opportunity to appeal to the participants to renew their commitment to the core values and vision of the Ghana Health Service and discharge their duties and responsibilities diligently and professionally as anticipated to contribute to the nation’s development.