Interview: Dr Elikem Tamaklo

What is your assessment of health care in Ghana in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?

DR ELIKEM TAMAKLO: Ghana’s health care sector stands at a pivotal juncture, calling for substantial investment to fortify its foundations. Prioritising primary care is a critical endeavour, with the goal being to mirror the high-quality health care outcomes observed in countries such as the US and Germany. Making the health care sector more resilient is not merely a prerogative for the sector but a fundamental economic necessity.

The resilience of Ghana’s health care sector has undergone substantial scrutiny, revealing the need for bolstered capacity. A lack of doctors, nurses and health care professionals presents a pressing challenge, further exacerbated by the threat of a brain drain to countries such as the UK. This leaves the country vulnerable to future pandemics. Therefore, dedicating resources to education and training to cultivate a larger pool of medical professionals is crucial. Another issue is the absence of local drug and vaccine manufacturing, which complicates supply chains. The establishment of the National Vaccine Institute in May 2023 is a promising step, yet it necessitates sustained efficacy to boost the country’s readiness against future disruptions.

How have government policies improved access to health care, and what level of collaboration with the private sector can enhance standards in the sector?

TAMAKLO: Government policies and regulations have played a vital role in enhancing access to health care in Ghana. Notably, the government’s commitment to expanding hospital facilities aligns with the burgeoning population’s health care needs. The addition of more beds at the Ghana Infectious Disease Centre during the height of the pandemic, and the construction, expansion and upgrade of existing medical infrastructure across the country are significant steps towards fortifying the health care system. However, the country must also focus on nurturing human capital. The recruitment and retention of highly skilled medical professionals is pivotal to ensuring quality services.

The government and the private sector are working together to improve health care standards in Ghana. Private health care entities rigorously adhere to regulatory standards set by the Health Facilities Regulatory Agency to ensure the quality of health care delivery services. Furthermore, the National Health Insurance Authority is actively involved in the monitoring of insurance compliance. Collaborative efforts between the government and the private sector aim to maintain the high quality of health care delivery.

In what ways do you expect technology to shape the health care sector, and how will digitalisation improve the operations of large hospitals?

TAMAKLO: Health care technology represents an exciting frontier, ushering in an era of reduced costs, improved quality and enhanced accessibility. However, such change is not without its challenges. Foremost among these is the issue of financing. Without the necessary resources, whether through cash reserves or grants, efforts to adopt and leverage technologies become considerably more arduous. In order to foster meaningful technological advancements, health care institutions must actively seek opportunities that will drive innovation in the sector.

Digital transformation is poised to revolutionise operations and output in large hospitals. Beyond efficiency gains, this shift empowers institutions to deliver better patient care, streamlining internal processes, and fostering more accurate diagnoses and effective treatment strategies. Moreover, digitalisation bolsters innovation, enabling hospitals to adapt swiftly to evolving medical technologies. Patients also benefit from streamlined administrative tasks and more accessible health care information, ensuring a patient-centric experience. Digital transformation is expected to be a crucial component in the evolution of the industry.