No psychiatrist in Volta Region … the only one retired 2 years ago

Dr Akwasi Osei

Dr Akwasi Osei

Two years after the retirement of the psychiatrist in the Volta Region, the region has been without a doctor to provide mental health care to the people.

According to the Mental Health Authority (MHA), it was unable to replace the doctor as it was yet to receive clearance from government to recruit personnel.

“The only psychiatrist there retired two years ago and government did not engage him to continue working so he only helps as and when he feels like,” Chief Executive Officer of the MHA, Dr Akwasi Osei, disclosed in an interview with the Ghanaian Times yesterday.

Presently, Ghana has only 25 psychiatrists serving the estimated 30 million population with doctor to patient ratio pegged at 1: 1.1million people.

Giving a breakdown of the number which he described as pathetic, Dr Osei said “we  have three doctors at Ankaful, five in Kumasi, one in the Volta Region (a retiree) and the rest are in Accra; Pantang and the Accra Psychiatric hospital.”

Expressing hope that about 20 doctors currently undergoing training in the field could augment the existing numbers, Dr Osei pointed out that that largely depended on clearance from government.

“We hoping to increase the number of Psychiatrists to 1: 3,000 or 4,000 but the issue of stigma against health professionals in the sector and lack of incentives to keep them is making more doctors turn away from this aspect of medicine,” he noted.

Dr Osei who seemed doubtful of seeing light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon when it came to issues of mental health in the country noted that until government showed keenness in the sector, the entire health of the populace was at risk.

“Successive governments do not seem keen on mental health and many aspects of the entire health system. There is low prioritisation of issues bordering around mental health and no one seems to care,” he lamented.

Citing the pending legislative instrument on the Mental Health Levy for instance, Dr Osei stated, “despite several engagement on the issue, it remains the same. This is a government who plans on scrapping many taxes so to push for a new levy is something they find difficult to consider.

However, we have suggested on several occasions that, the mental health levy can be sourced from sectors like telecommunication, the GETFUND, oil revenue and the National Health Insurance Scheme and the equivalent of all these put together can get us the four per cent to support mental health operations but nothing has been done so far,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking to the Ghanaian Times on the sidelines of a health walk and medical screening for market women at Makola, in Accra on Saturday, the Medical Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Pinaman Apau confirmed that the hospital had four doctors and two psychologists attending to about 33,000 patients per annum.

“Though we have a number of nurses, they cannot prescribe medications so that makes the work load quite heavy. You come to the facility and you see that most of the professionals are demotivated. There is no accommodation for doctors, no risk allowances and this is an area where you are exposed to high risk so many shy away from specialising in mental health,” she observed.

To the Medical Director, “passing the mental health bill without the levy to help in effective implementation, brings us back to square one.”

 BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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