Source: Emmanuel Bonney – Daily Graphic

The University of Ghana Medical School (UGMS) is bedevilled with a myriad of problems that are hampering its operations and the training of doctors for the country.

They include ageing faculty lecturers, unattractive remuneration and conditions of service, difficulty in recruiting younger faculty members, lack of space and training facilities to take on more students and inadequate funding.

The UGMS has since its inception produced 2,570 doctors. A large proportion of its faculty is over 60 years and a significant number of them above 55 years.

The Dean of the UGMS, Professor Yao Tettey, said although a multipronged approach was being used to address the problems enumerated, there was the need for increased support from the government and corporate organisations to develop more medical manpower for the country.

Prof. Tettey was speaking during the presentation of a paper on the “University of Ghana Medical School and Medical Manpower Development in Ghana” at the inaugural lecture of the 50th anniversary celebration of the UGMS in Accra.

“The UGMS at its inception used to enjoy generous support and funding from government. This has over the years dried out.

Meanwhile, direct government support for our budget annually covers only staff emolument, he said, adding that “the school receives very little in terms of service and nothing for investment.”

He indicated that there were several qualified doctors within and outside the country who could be employed to teach in the medical school, saying the challenge was that of remuneration and conditions of service which were grossly unattractive and did not guarantee a reasonably comfortable retirement.

“May I remind all of us that these are a group of persons who work as full time doctors taking care of patients like any doctor in Ghana as well as full time lecturers like any other university lecturer. Worse of all, the remuneration and end-of-service benefits of the doctors they train, who work with the Ministry of Health and other organisations, are much better of than those of the medical school lecturers.

“Thus the young consultants are not willing to be recruited into the medical school,” he said.

The Ghana Medical School, as the UGMS was previously called, started training medical students in October 1962, with the first batch of 51 students admitted at Legon to start a two-year pre-medical course because the prospective American Dean of the school, Prof. Cross, had indicated that he could not get teachers to start immediate teaching in the basic science.

The students, therefore, had to study subjects like Economics, Sociology, English and Social Anthropology, among other subjects.

Barely a year after its commencement, the project was terminated by the Ghana government, with the fate of the 51 students left hanging in a balance.

The then President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, having been encouraged and convinced by the then Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Connor O’Brian, and Prof. Ewir, took a bold decision in 1964 to establish a medical school, relying predominantly on local financial and manpower resources.

While commending the government for setting up the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), Prof. Tettey stated that the GETFund support for the UGMS, and for that matter the university, had reduced.

Prof. Tettey said for a couple of years, what the UGMS received from the GETFund was unable to fund any project completely.

Medical education, he said, had become very expensive due to rapidly changing technology, proliferation of new information and methods.

The UGMS, he said, had in the past not only played a pivotal role in the establishment of other health related institutions within the University of Ghana, but it had nurtured and supported fledging sister medical schools in the country.

Prof. Tettey said the development of the University of Ghana Dental School, for instance, was initiated in 1974 and nurtured until it attained full faculty status in 1992.

He said a Ministry of Health document titled “Human Resource Policies and Strategies for the Health Sector 2007-2011” indicated that at the time the document was written in 2006, there were 2,026 medical officers in the employment of the Ministry of Health.

“It was projected in that document that by the end of 2011, there should be 4,734 doctors in the health services of Ghana. As of December 2011, there were 3,936 doctors working in Ghana on the register of the Medical and Dental Council of Ghana. Thus, there is a shortfall of 798 doctors based on the projections of the Ministry of Health,” Prof. Tettey revealed.

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