The case of Ghanaian Doctors and dentists in United Kingdom:
The assumption among some academics and policy makers is that loss of the best and the brightest hurts those left at home. However evidence from studies emerging that a highly skilled diaspora may play important role in promoting development at home.
In the 1960s Ghana was among group of 3rd world countries that promoted study abroad which became known as “Study Abroad Policy”. These policies discontinue in the late 1970s and the early 1980s when Ghana and the rest of the sub-Saharan African countries underwent a hash economics crisis, crisis that bankrupted many African countries and left many of their citizens destitute. The decade, which became known in the development literature as the “Lost Decade” for sub-Saharan African, was devastating for Ghana in particular.
Ghana was the only sub-Saharan African country that lost almost all her skilled labour. Ghanaian professionals, including doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers, teachers and lecturers left the country in large numbers. In most OECD countries international mobility of the highly skilled, in part are dictated by immigrations policy which encourages this group to leave their country of origin. Because Ghanaian doctors and nurses are highly rated for their dedication to work and brilliance, their departure hurt the country most.
In the mid 1990s, a study conducted by a group of World Bank economists showed that there were more Ghanaian doctors and nurses practising in Western Europe and North America than in their homeland. Majority of the doctors and nurses that left Ghana were trained at University of Ghana Medical School and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Medical School. Korle Bu and Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals are still highly rated medical schools of excellence in the West Africa sub-region; however some of the facilities and the laboratories used by our doctors need urgent upgrade.
On 9th September 2006, at Porchester Hall in London, England, Ghanaian doctors and dentists launched their conference to address the issues facing Ghana medical schools and hospitals.
Under the leadership of their dynamic and young physician, Dr Anthony Annan, the association pledge to repay the debt of gratitude they owe the motherland. The gathering of the cream of Ghana’s medical professionals in United Kingdom was a watershed. They came from every corner of the Kingdom, including as far a field as the mainland continental Europe to pledge their unflinching support to help uplift medical care in Ghana. The doctors that left the motherland in their prime, now matured, many with young families and majority at the pinnacle of their professional careers, wants to transfer the knowledge they have acquire to their young compatriots home.
In his opening address Dr Annan thanked his colleagues for answering the call of the association to help put something back into the homeland. The doctors left the motherland not for financial rewards but to help further their academic and professional career. Almost all the doctors exploit the comparative advantages of host countries’ specific training, channelling the new skills towards not only the host country but the home country as well as were demonstrated at the gathering.
Studies from the benefits of brain drain has drawn the attention to the potential benefits that technology transfers, trade and capital flows make to a country, as opposed to the traditional view of harm to those left behind. There has been a significant increase in international remittances which has been well documented and Ghana is no exception. In some countries remittances has been a large source of foreign exchange, relative to exports. In Ghana, direct inflows from the diaspora are the third largest source of revenue behind cocoa and gold. Unlike the traditional uses of remittances, remittances from Ghanaians are going into setting up businesses that generate employment. Most of these investments are from the skilled labour that Ghana lost in the last 3 decades.
In diaspora the migrants formed networks; studies have shown that the networks are active and more effective amongst the professionals as among the less skilled in terms of operating informally and formally with governments and other bodies. Skilled migrants act as the middlemen between the home government and foreign governments and businesses, resulting in inflows of Foreign Direct Investments, educational and cultural exchanges as well as enhancing bilateral trade.
It is true that the ratio of doctors per population in Ghana now stands at 160,000 to 1, which is quite frightening considering Ghana’s progress vis-à-vis the rest of the countries in the sub-region. However the doctors that Ghana lost and now cannot afford to hire back are willing to offer their services free to help health delivery and medical schools in Ghana. Their willingness to repay the debt that they owe the motherland must be welcome by Ghanaians everywhere. Their contributions to our 4 medical schools (Accra, Kumasi, Tamale and Cape Coast) through educational exchange programs such as teaching and research would enrich the knowledge of our young medical/dentistry students. Ghana is still classified as a poor 3rd world country, but folks our medical professionals (doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians and researchers), 98% trained in Ghana at University of Ghana Medical School, Accra, University for Development Studies School of Medical Sciences, Tamale and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Medical School, Kumasi, are deemed as some of the best medical professionals in the world.
To encourage transfer of knowledge through collaborations with colleagues home and short/long term teaching and research, Ghana’s High Commissioner to St James Court in the United Kingdom, his Excellency Mr Annan Cato, a career diplomat, stated, “any doctor who wants to go home on either a short or long term visit and want to teach or engage in research should call my office and we will pay their airfare and boarding”. This pledge from the Ghanaian government is long over due. As a career diplomat Mr Annan Cato’s statement is part of a policy that any Ghanaian government, irrespective of which party in power, cannot escape from that obligation.
In his inaugural speech to launch his presidential campaign, Dr Arthur Kobina Kennedy, another Ghanaian doctor who had his formative medical studies at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, and continued his medical studies in United States of America, pledged to established more medical schools at Police Hospital, Accra, 37 Military Hospital, Accra, Effia Nkwanta Hospital Sekondi, and Suyani General Hospital in the Brong Ahafo region.
The dean of Medical School at Cape Coast University, Professor Amonoo-Kuofie, highlighted the difficulties that he is facing to secure equipments and materials for the infant medical school. He told the members of the lack of laboratory equipments and shortage of medical books at the nation’s 3 other medical schools and directly appealed to his former students, colleagues and friends of Ghana to help them. Prof. Amonoo-Kuofie’s poignant address brought home to the delegates the enormous difficulties facing our medical schools.
The doctors come from different tribes and backgrounds but in unison they stood shoulder to shoulder in support of their motherland. The event was not merely a birth of an association but also to highlight to the Ghanaian people the preparedness of our medical professionals to contribute towards health care delivery in Ghana.
In her address to the gathering, Dr Emma Quartey, Oral Surgeon and a former lecturer, Oral and Maxillofacial at Kings College Hospital, London, argue for a close collaboration between the two arms of the profession, general medicine and dentistry, especially at the medical schools in Ghana. The notion of close working relationship would be beneficial to the young dentists and doctors that Ghana trains. As the country prepares for the take, the contributions from her skilled professionals in diaspora would become more paramount. This is the opportunity for the Ghanaian universities to tap into the tremendous wealth of knowledge of the diaspora. The skilled Ghanaian professionals from different disciplines are willing to offer their services to the motherland for free……….. This writer is directly appealing to the Vice Chancellors of University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, University of Development Studies, University of Education and Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology to collaborate, through Ghanaian embassies worldwide, with the skilled professionals to enable them contribute to the education development of the motherland. Ghana needs them.
This writer is grateful Dr Stephen Addai, a Consultant Paediatrician in Milton Keynes, and his colleagues for their selfless pledge to put something back into the country that nurtured them and gave them the basic skills at medical school in Ghana. This writer want to remind the doctors that when they go home on vacation, they must not forget the small village clinics, majority with just bare basic amenities, by sparing a day or two of their busy schedule to offer free medical care to as many villagers as they can. Majority of the rural folks die needlessly from opportunistic diseases, which can be cured but due to the high medical charges cannot afford. The onus is now on Dr Stephen Addai and his colleagues to honour their promise to the Ghanaian people.
The rate of premature death among the rural folks is frightening, especially among young women, children and old folks. In the early 1970s Effie Nkwanta Hospital, situated in this writer’s hometown of Sekondi, was staffed by over 150 doctors and twice as much nurses. Effia Nkwanta General Hospital was the pride of the Western Region. Now the hospital has less than 10 doctors. This sad story is the same countrywide. All the doctors and nurses are gone. As stated above majority of the doctors and nurses that were once proud to serve at Effia Nkwanta Hospital left the homeland in their prime ( 25 -35 years). They left not because of their merge salaries but because of lack of equipments and medical materials. Ghana keep producing
Various groups such as the musicians union (Ghana Musicians Association) Ghanaian Nurses and Midwives, Ex Ghana Police Force Association and others are all contributing towards Ghana’s development. The essence of unity and patriotism shown by various Ghanaian associations in fundraising points towards the Vision – our vision, Vision 2020.
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