Former GHS Director urges govt to support Health Research Centers amidst coronavirus

Thu, 7 May 2020 Source: Senyalah Castro, Contributor

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Dr. Erasmus E. A. Agongo, Consultant Public Health Physician and a former Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has called on government to give the three Health Research Centers in the country some bail-out in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Research Centres include the Dodowa Health Research Centre (DHRC), the Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC) and the Navrongo Health Research Centre (NHRC).

Dr. Agongo, who strongly recommends the support for the facilities, believes a bailout in a time the country grapples with measures to contain the viral disease would help prevent the collapse of these critical national assets.

He said the Health Research Centres have immensely contributed to several health policies, systems reforms, programme development, implementation nationally, globally and adding that government would be doing a good thing giving short-medium term support to them to survive the pandemic.

Dr. Agongo made the recommendations to the government in his write up titled “Reflecting on Ghana’s Response to the COVID-19."

In his recommendations, Dr. Agongo urged government to support the Centers by paying salaries of critical staff for the next three to six months and also absorb critical staff on the government pay-roll to enable them focus their attention on national priorities.

He explained that the Centers depended on hugely on donor projects funding to maintain 80% of their workforce but due to diminishing external fund flow consequence of the changing global financing architecture, Ghana’s attainment of lower-middle-income status and now with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, most of these projects are in suspense, thus compounding the Centers financial problems.

He said if the government failed to give bailout to the Centers, they stand to lose the highly skilled labour they have which would cost the country a great deal of money to reinvest.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly adversely affecting the Health Research Centers (Dodowa, Kintampo and Navrongo) projects’ funds flow from their sponsors abroad. They depend on these resources to pay the salaries of out 80% of their workforce, and if they are not bailed out in the short-to-medium term they stand to lose the highly skilled labour they have. If this happens they are surely going to collapse. It will be regrettable to let this happen to these important national assets that have received international acclaim for their immense contribution to health policy reforms and programme reforms excellent research work they have done to contribute to policy reforms and programme implementation nationally and globally.

I therefore strongly recommend that: The Government should give them a bail-out by paying the salaries of their critical staff the next three to six months, depending on the dynamics of the pandemic; and as part of the public health sector reforms bound to take place post-pandemic. Absorb the critical staff in the Government pay-roll to enable them focus their attention on national priorities in the work they do”.

More on the recommendations, Dr. Agongo is urging government to engage capable and willing retired health professionals to support the response efforts and ensure that adequate number of staff and teams are trained, equipped and deployed for the various COVID-19 response measures in the regions.

He also recommends to the national sub-Team on logistics and finance to develop a Resource Tracking System for all resources coming into the system to be able to advise the National Technical Coordination Committee (NTCC) on the allocation of resources.

The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), he advised, should also reimburse the outstanding bills of all health facilities to resource them so they can commit some resources to the COVID-19 response.

He urged government not to lose its guard in fighting the virus but rather enhance all measures put in place so far by identifying and addressing any bottlenecks and introducing other measures that have been proven to be effective in the containment of the disease.

Source: Senyalah Castro, Contributor
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