By Timothy Gobah & Samuel Duodu, Berekum
The Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has expressed concern about the over concentration of health personnel in the urban areas to the detriment of rural and deprived areas in the country where their services are needed the most.
He, therefore, appealed to newly trained health professionals, especially nurses and midwives to accept postings to the deprived areas of the country to cater for the health needs of the people while the government also made efforts to improve conditions of service and come out with incentive packages for them.
The Vice-President noted that certain categories of workers could go on strike but not health professionals such as nurses who were trained to save lives.
He expressed the concern at the 13th matriculation ceremony of the Berekum Nurses and Midwifery Training College (NMTC) in the Berekum Municipality of the Brong Ahafo Region last Friday.
One-Hundred and fifty students out of the 1,358 applicants that gained admission for the 2010/2011 academic year, took the college’s matriculation oath and that of the Nurses and Midwives Council of Ghana at the ceremony.
The Vice-President as part of activities to mark the ceremony, which formed part of the 53rd anniversary celebration of the Berekum NMTC, inaugurated a GH¢700,000 new lecture block for the college the construction which started in April 2008 and got completed in October 2010.
Mr Mahama on behalf of the government also donated a 31-seater air-conditioned bus worth GH¢100,000 ($70,000) to the college.
In his address, he noted that some of the qualities one needed to become a nurse was compassion, kindness, politeness and cheerfulness and therefore, urged the students to cultivate all those character traits in order to offer quality care to the sick after their training.
Touching on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Mr Mahama said Ghana was on track to achieve some aspects of MDG by 2015 but lagged behind in the areas of maternal and child mortality as well as water and sanitation, which were inter-related.
He, therefore, called on all Ghanaians, especially health personnel, not to spare any efforts to ensure that maternal and child mortality rates dropped to zero, saying that all resources must be applied to ensure that the country achieved the MDG’s 4&5 that sought to reduce the under-five and maternal mortality rates.
Mr Mahama gave the assurance that the government would also do its part by ensuring that clinics and hospitals were available at every nook and cranny of the country as well as health personnel to ensure that every pregnant woman received quality healthcare during delivery since majority of deaths recorded at birth were as a result of unsupervised delivery.
The Vice-President congratulated the college for being one of the best health training institutions in the country and urged the students who were privileged to gain admission to the college to uphold the high sense of discipline to come out as well trained professionals ready to serve anywhere in the country.
The Catholic Bishop of Sunyani, Most Rev. Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, who delivered the keynote address, advised the students not to allow material and monetary gains to take precedence over and above their primary duty to preserve and save lives.
He also reiterated the call on nurses not to strike due to demands for higher pay since that also defeated the very purpose for which the profession was created and had developed and evolved through the centuries.
Most Rev. Gyamfi commended the government for the provision of infrastructure for the Berekum NMTC and called for the continuous collaboration between the Catholic Church and the government in the area of health care.
The Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo, for his part said the government had not left out the Brong Ahafo Region when it came to the provision of health infrastructure, adding that the region could boast a modern and state-of-the-art regional hospital, which was a referral health institution.
He disclosed that plans were far advanced for the establishment of a midwifery training school at Goaso by the close of the year, while the Techiman Holy Family Hospital was in the process of securing accreditation to start a nursing training school, adding that very soon, the region would be a nurse exporter to other parts of the country.
Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, the Minister of Health, in his address, said over the last couple of years, the government had stepped back and decided to repackage the principles of health care delivery to ensure that all barriers to care were removed and the nursing profession remained central to that effort.
He entreated the students to be prepared to accept postings to deprived areas after their training, which most people saw as punishment, saying the government was now prepared to recognise and reward appropriately.
The Principal of the Berekum NMTC, Madam Monica Nkrumah, in her welcome address, said the total number of applicants to the college rose to 1,358 from last year’s figure of 882. Out of this, 687 were short-listed for an admission interview, but only 150 were offered admission comprising 50 midwifery students and 100 nursing students.
She expressed her gratitude to the government for the tremendous assistance to the college, such as the construction of a 100-capacity female hostel, now accommodating 284 students and a lecture hall complex comprising a library, skills laboratory and offices, which was inaugurated by the Vice-President.