Monday, March 30, 2009

'Establish National Cancer Register' (Page 20)

THE National Cancer Control Programme Focal Person, Dr Kofi Nyarko, has called for the establishment of a national cancer register to guide policy makers to take concrete decisions on the disease, which is claiming many lives.
He said lack of overall national data on cancer cases in the country was a great impediment to the fight against the disease.
Dr Nyarko said what was currently available were reports from the two institutional cancer registries at the Korle-Bu and Komfo Anokye teaching hospitals, which could not represent the whole country.
Addressing participants in a workshop on cancer control by the American Cancer Society International on Africa Cancer Information and Advocacy Initiative in Accra on Friday, Dr Nyarko stressed the need for a functional population-based cancer registry to generate complete, accurate, timely and confidential data on all cancer cases.
The workshop, which was attended by participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, was intended to help organisations improve their capacity to plan and implement cancer control initiatives such as information dissemination and advocacy activities.
In addition, the Focal Person on Cancer said such data would provide annual reports on the incidence, prevalence, treatment and survival of patients registered with a sufficient level of clinical and demographic detail to make them available to those involved in health planning and cancer management, as well as disseminate the needed information to all interested parties.
He described cancer as an abnormal growth of a cell in any part of the body, which mostly led to death if not controlled, adding that the disease connoted fear, since it was an illness that was often chronic and associated with grief and economic loss.
For his part, the Deputy Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr George Amofah, said globally, cancer constituted about 12 per cent of all deaths.
Linking cancer to cigarette smoking, Dr Amofah said there was the need for civic society groups to intensify the fight against tobacco.
Such a fight should be considered as a “fight against principalities and powers in high places”, since the cigarette manufacturers were very powerful groups, which could easily manipulate the system to their advantage without considering the harm their activities had on people’s lives.
Dr Amofah said Ghana was embarking on two main measures, the first being screening ,to fight cancer including breast, cervical, as well as prostrate cancers for early detection and treatment.
The second measure, according to Dr Amofah, was the introduction of Regenerative Health and Nutrition Programmes currently being embarked on by the Ministry of Health.
He pointed out that it was the best way to prevent cancers and other non-communicable diseases, which were gradually becoming a public health issue.
The chairman for the function, Dr Samuel Sackey of the University of Ghana School of Public Health, advised Ghanaians to avoid fatty foods and undertake physical exercises to protect themselves from cancers.

Check poor conditions in parts of La (Page 28)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

SOME residents around the La Royal Mausoleum have appealed to the city authorities to help check the unhygienic condition which is gradually engulfing the area.
They said it was important for the authorities to come to their aid but not wait till an epidemic broke out.
The Daily Graphic visited the area in the late afternoon of Monday following persistent complaints from a resident, Mr Adjei Quao, and found the area was really unhygienic and the vicinity looked unkempt and also smelt badly.
In spite of the filthy and unhygienic conditions, little children, some looking as young as one year-old, were seen playing around and there was also what looked like a hotel, with the inscription King’s Village Club, which is opposite the Takoradi House.
According to Mr Quao, the already bad situation was being compounded by the activities of a property owner who operated a public toilet in the area, which, he said, was the major source of the stench the residents were forced to inhale, especially in the evenings.
He alleged that a report was made to the Environmental Health Officers at the La Sub-Metropolitan Office last year and they inspected the place but failed to take any action.
A female resident who wanted to remain anonymous told the Daily Graphic that it became extremely difficult for residents to stay in their homes at night because of the stench which emanated from the public toilet.
She, therefore, called on both the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) to inspect any public place of convenience in the area once more for the necessary action to be taken so as to save the lives of residents, especially children.
“There are some individuals whose commercial activities, legal or illegal, are creating so much health problems for us and our families here,” she stated.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NID Second Round Takes Off (page 11)

FIFTY thousand volunteers have been engaged to move from house to house to immunise about five million children throughout the country, under the second round of the National Immunisation Days (NIDs) exercise.
In that direction, personnel of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) under the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said they were ready to start the exercise which is against poliomyelitis (polio) and scheduled for March 26 to 28, 2009.
The first round of the exercise took place between February 12 and 14 this year where every child under five years was immunised.
Briefing the Minister of Health, Dr George Sipa-Adjah Yankey, in his office at the weekend, the Programme Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), Dr Kwadwo Antwi-Agyei, said the latest immunisation exercise was in response to the detection of eight polio cases in the Northern Region suspected to have been imported from the Republic of Benin.
Dr Antwi-Agyei stated that the doses that would be given to targeted children during the NIDs, would be additional doses of polio vaccines that every child under-five years should receive even if the child had already been immunised. He explained that it did not replace routine immunisation.
The exercise became necessary following detection of eight wild polio virus cases in the country between August and November last year. The situation made the Ministry of Health (MoH) and its development partners to organise the two-round of a nationwide polio immunisation.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus. The polio virus attacks the nerve cells that control muscle movements. Many people infected with the virus have few or no symptoms. Others have short-term symptoms, such as headache, tiredness, fever, stiff neck and back, and muscle pain.
More serious problems happen when the virus invades nerves in the brain and causes paralysis of the muscles used in swallowing and breathing. Invasion of the nerves in the spinal cord can cause paralysis of the arms, legs, or trunk.
Symptoms usually start seven to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Infected persons are most contagious from a few days before to a few days after the start of symptoms.
However, persons with polio can spread the infection for as long as the virus is in their throat or stool. The virus can be found in the throat for about one week after infection and in the stool for six weeks or longer.
Ghana had had a polio-free period from September 2003 to August 2008 before the eight cases were reported.
Speaking to journalists at the beginning of the first round, Dr Antwi-Agyei took the opportunity to remind parents, care-givers and guardians to make sure that their children under five years received two drops of polio vaccine each during the period and also endeavour to send their children for routine vaccination as well.
The NIDs are organised by the GHS with support from the WHO, UNICEF, Centre for Disease Control, Ghana National Polio Plus Committee of Rotary International and JICA, among others.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recent spate of road accidents- GAF To The Rescue (Front Page)

IN response to the recent spate of accidents on our roads, the Ministry of Health is to collaborate with the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to airlift accident victims to hospital for prompt medical care.
The ministry will also increase its fleet of ambulances to provide efficient services for people who may need them.
The Minister of Health, Dr George Sipa-Adjah Yankey, said the decision was taken following information provided by the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) indicated that a large number of fatalities occurred when accident victims were being conveyed to hospital.
Statistics provided by the Information Technology and Statistics Manager of the NRSC, Mr Rudolf Beckley, indicated that about 80 per cent of accident victims died on their way to hospital, either because of delays or the manner in which the injured were handled on the way to hospital.
Dr Yankey told the Daily Graphic that the use of the helicopters was to help address the problem of the high number of fatalities occurring when victims of accidents were being sent to hospital.
The minister said there were 41 ambulances for use in the country by the National Ambulance Service (NAS), with only six for the whole of the Greater Accra Region, a situation which he described as unsatisfactory.
Sharing his experiences with this reporter, the Health Minister said he witnessed the difficulties the staff of the NAS went through before they were able to convey all the victims of the accident at Bewadze, near Winneba in the Central Region, last Wednesday night to hospital. Eighteen people died in that accident.
“The lives of many accident victims will be saved if they are handled properly and appropriately when being conveyed to hospital,” he stated.
Dr Yankey said the ministry also intended to recruit some individuals for special training to offer emergency services to injured persons, adding that enough logistics would also be provided for first aid care at accident spots should they occur.
He also hinted that he would work hard to ensure that the National Ambulance Bill was passed into law to enable all the right steps to be taken in the operation of ambulance services for Ghanaians in times of need.
The Health Minister took the opportunity to express his appreciation to all health workers who worked hard to save lives when motor accidents occurred.
He, however, advised drivers to be cautious in order to prevent deaths through avoidable accidents.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mental Health In Crisis- 4 doctors in public sector (Front Page)

THE Chief Psychiatrist at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Akwasi Osei, has observed that lack of psychiatric doctors in the country has made mental healthcare delivery problematic.
This is in view of the fact that at any time, between 30 and 40 per cent of the population suffer from one mental health problem or another.
He explained that the conditions ranged from minor mental illnesses, which were easy to treat, to the major ones, which were referred to as madness.
Dr Osei expressed these sentiments when the Daily Graphic contacted him to know more about the state of mental healthcare delivery in the country.
That followed the disclosure by Mr Evans Oheneba Mensah, an official of BasicNeeds, an international non-governmental organisation that supports mental patients in the country, that the lack of enough mental healthcare doctors in the country had, for years, prevented people with serious conditions such as schizophrenia, mania, severe depression, serious neurosis, alcoholism and epilepsy from receiving treatment.
Currently, Ghana has only four psychiatric doctors in the public sector, in addition to 11 others who are now on retirement but have been contracted to assist in the delivery of mental health care to the country’s 22 million people.
Two out of the four who are supposed to be in active service do not work as healthcare practitioners but as lecturers.
Dr Osei, who confirmed that the country lacked adequate numbers of mental healthcare doctors, said, “That is why we always cry out for help.”
The chief psychiatrist explained that many people in Ghana would not want to train as mental healthcare practitioners because of the stigma attached to mental health patients which, unfortunately, was usually extended to health personnel who cared for them.
He also mentioned the lack of risk allowances that were provided elsewhere in the world to motivate people to take up mental healthcare delivery as another reason that discouraged people from entering into that field in Ghana.
Dr Osei, however, hinted that there were currently six students who were undergoing training at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons in Accra and were expected to come out between September and December this year.
The Daily Graphic learnt about the issue of inadequate mental health doctors when a team from the Kintampo Rural Health Training School (KRHTS) and an official from the University of Winchester (UoW) in the United Kingdom (UK), called on the Minister of Health, Dr George Sipa-Adjah Yankey, in his office in Accra.
Briefing the minister on the activities of KRHTS, the Principal of the school, Dr E. T. Adjase, in the company of Professor Jane Erica of the UoW, said there were plans to upgrade the school to a university college in the near future to enable it to introduce mental health education programmes, among other courses, in collaboration with the Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust (HPT) of the UK, as well as the UoW.
He said the objective of the initiative was to help all districts in Ghana to have middle-level specialist mental health workers in place over the next five to 10 years.
A special newsletter devoted to the Kintampo Project stated that there were plans to develop two new specialist education curricula at KRHTS, one for medical assistants in psychiatry and the other for Community Mental Health Officers, which would take 18 and 12 months, respectively, to complete.
In his remarks, Dr Yankey expressed surprise at the low number of psychiatrists in the public sector and gave the assurance that the government would provide all the necessary support for the school to begin the project.
He took the opportunity to commend the school for the work it had done over the past 40 years to train health personnel to serve the people of Ghana in various capacities.

TB Patients Advised to Take Medication (page 34)

HE National Tuberculosis (TB) Control Programme (NTP) has advised TB patients to complete their medication as directed, to avoid being drug resistant.
According to officials of the programme, it was dangerous for patients to skip taking their medicine since that could make the TB-causing bacteria to grow stronger to worsen the patients’ condition or cause death.
It explained that the TB bacteria (mycobacterium tuberculosis), which caused the disease died slowly and, therefore, required about six months continuous treatment to ensure the full recovery of an infected person.
These came out during a one-day advocacy workshop which was organised by NTP for journalists in Accra, as part of programmes to commemorate the World TB Day scheduled for Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region on March 24, on the theme: “I am stopping TB”.
The workshop was to equip the journalists to attach relevance to TB issues to put the disease on the national agenda and also encourage them (the journalists) to cover TB-related topics in a responsible manner.
Addressing the participants, the Programme Manager of NTP, Dr Frank Bonsu, stressed the need for scientists to engage in research to develop new diagnosis, drugs and vaccines to strengthen the fight against TB, adding that currently there was no vaccine for adults to combat the disease.
He also urged health workers to play an active role in information dissemination and education to help prevent and control the spread of the disease among communities.
According to NTP statistics, in every population of 100,000, 203 new cases are detected, adding that there were 90 new infections each year. It also pointed out that 50 per cent of those infected died, 25 per cent recovered, while 25 per cent remained infectious.
Dr Bonsu, therefore, called for the strategic involvement of all stakeholders in the fight against eliminating the disease.
The Programme Manager noted that TB control was no longer the preserve of a few health professionals but everybody in society.
He said TB was the leading cause of death especially among HIV/AIDS patients because they had weaker immune systems, adding that “out of every 100 TB patients, 14 are HIV patients”.
He said TB posed a serious threat to society, both socially and economically which called for a concerted effort on the part of government and society to stop the disease.
He entreated Ghanaians to quickly seek medical screening and care when they exhibited symptoms of TB.
He identified some of the symptoms as a bad cough which lasted longer than two weeks, pain in the chest, coughing up blood, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite and sweating at night.
The Deputy Programme Manger of NTP, Dr Hanson Nortey said the disease was not hereditary nor a curse from the gods, and advised people to seek information from the right sources if in doubt.
He however called on government, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to join in the fight and elimination of TB from society.
The Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the NTP, Mr Felix Afutu said TB was curable and treatment was free.
He said people could avoid TB if they ate healthy food, got enough sleep, kept their immune system healthy and avoided overcrowded and poorly ventilated rooms.
“The infection can also be contracted through close contact with infected persons who cough, sneeze or spit but sufferers should not be ostracised from society because the disease is curable”, he stated.

Friday, March 20, 2009

“I am Stopping TB” (Feature)

ON March 24, each year, the world embarks on various forms of activities to commemorate the World TB Day, a day set aside to create awareness on tuberculosis (TB) and how best it could be dealt with.
In Ghana, the event for this year would be launched at the Golden Jubilee Park in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region on the theme, “I Am Stopping TB”.
The National Planning Committee in Accra, in conjunction with the Upper East Health Directorate has planned a series of activities to create advocacy in government, mobilise health workers, civil societies, non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) and the media to take action as groups and individuals, to address issues in the control, care and prevention of the disease throughout the country. These programmes are expected to be replicated throughout the country.
Tuberculosis is a contagious bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. The disease mostly attacks the lungs (pulmonary TB) but it can affect any organ in the body (extra Pulmonary TB). It is important to note that TB which affects other parts of the body is not as infectious as TB of the lungs.
The history behind the day is that on March 24, 1882, Dr Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB. At that time, TB was responsible for one out of seven deaths in the United States ( U.S) and Europe. This discovery was the most important step towards the control and elimination of the disease.
In 1982, 100 years after the discovery of Dr Koch, the first World TB Day was commemorated; sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (IUATLD). The event was intended to educate the public about the devastating health and economic consequences of TB, its effect especially on developing countries and its continued tragic impact on global health.
As has already been mentioned, the theme for the commemoration is “I Am Stopping TB” which was a two-year campaign which began from March 2008. The theme calls for a concerted effort by everyone to join hands in stopping the disease because TB control is no longer the preserve of a few health professionals but everybody in the society.
I am stopping TB is more than a slogan. It is the continuation of a two-year campaign, launched in 2008, that belongs to people everywhere who are doing their part to Stop TB and the day is about celebrating the lives and stories of people affected by TB: Women, men and children who have taken TB treatment, nurses, doctors, researchers, community workers ,as well as anyone who has contributed towards the global fight against TB.
The “I am stopping TB” is a message of empowerment which encourages all people to do their part to stop TB and the key messages for the celebration are: TB patients can stop TB by becoming active participants in their own cure and taking all their anti TB drugs as prescribed. Health workers can stop TB by staying alert to the symptoms of the disease and providing prompt diagnosis and treatment. Scientists can stop TB by engaging in needed research to develop new diagnosis, new drugs and new vaccines.
Other groups of people are teachers. They can also stop TB by educating their students/ pupils about this preventable and curable disease. Communities can stop TB by sharing information to help prevent the spread of the disease and get treatment to those who need it and also the family has a role to play by supporting patients to achieve “cure” and helping to discover more cases in the home.
To identify the symptom so as to seek early treatment, one must be equipped with the right information. The cardinal symptom of pulmonary TB is a cough which lasts for more than two weeks. Other symptoms are loss of weight, tiredness, night sweats, chest pain and cough with blood stained sputum.
It must however be emphasised that every adult has been exposed to the TB infection without knowing but those at higher risks of contracting the disease are: smokers, alcoholics, people living in overcrowded and poorly ventilated rooms, mine workers, and those with lower immunity due to HIV and malnutrition.
TB is preventable, curable and treatment is free in all certified public and private health institutions. It is however not a curse or a hereditary condition. Traditional medicine has not been proven to cure TB.
According to the NTP, TB was cured with effective potent drugs, diagnostics and vaccine in children.
Information provided by the programme indicated that previously, single dose drugs were used in treating TB in Ghana but these drugs were found not to be helping compliance to treatment therefore the new TB regimen was the most potent and cost-effective method of treating the disease as it presented a combination of the same drugs in a single tablet to make administration easier.
The changed treatment regimen, according to NTP, had reduced the period of TB treatment from eight to six months, which was phased into two months of intensive and four months of continuation treatment. Now, the two months of injection has been replaced with oral drugs which have brought treatment closer to the door steps of the patient. This means treatment can be given and supervised in the home by a treatment supporter, relative or volunteer under the Directly Observed Treatment Strategy (DOT) .
The implementation of the DOTS in Ghana has recorded major improvements. In 1996, a total of 6,245 cases were recorded. Out of that number 1,057 were cured and 3, 863 were not evaluated.
The situation has however improved. As of 2006 and out of 7,786 pulmonary positive (infectious) cases registered, 5,494 got cured and 284 cases were not evaluated. This statistics show an increase in adherence to treatment. Proper supervision of patients has increased the cure rate. Case detection has improved considerably. In 2007, the NTP recorded 12,964, out of this, 7,429 were pulmonary positive patients and in 2008, about 14,400 cases were reported and 7,784 were pulmonary positive patients.
With the introduction of this new treatment regimen, it is expected that there would be better compliance to treatment since the non-adherence to treatment brings about the development of Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR) which is dangerous to the patient and must be avoided.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ghana’s political evolution from 1957 to 2008 (March 6, 2009)

IN the period of African colonial struggle, Ghana was no doubt the beacon of hope, the first colony to achieve independence in 1957. Since 1957 when Ghana attained independence from the paws of her colonial masters, Great Britain, it has chalked up many successes in her stride to consolidate democracy.
Since then, Ghana has had four republics and the experiences of the 2008 elections particularly has helped to cement Ghana’s image as a maturing democracy. Indeed, under the Fourth Republic, Ghana has held five consecutive national elections and had seen two peaceful transitions from one democratically elected government to another.
What is also very engaging is the use of the courts, and not violence, to settle electoral disputes.
However, efforts to strengthen the pillars of democracy in Ghana have not come easily as it has encountered many military insurrections.
Returning to the Gold Coast in 1949, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, arguably the nation’s most influential figure, found that India's independence had set in motion a process of gradual transfer of power in Britain's other colonies.
He first joined the existing political movement, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which he left after some misunderstanding with his colleagues. With several associates he later set up a new party, the Convention People's Party (CPP), and in the process demonstrated his supreme organisational abilities. Within two years the CPP had won limited self-rule,in elections, and Nkrumah became Leader of Government Business, a de facto prime minister responsible for internal government and policy.
He set his sights firmly on independence. No amount of autonomy or self-rule, he argued, could match the energy, commitment, and focus of a government and people in a truly independent country. It was a precondition for growth. He summarised his philosophy in a slogan that became famous and influential across Africa: "Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else shall be added unto you...."
Nkrumah’s views were hardening, reflecting an increasing attraction to "scientific socialism" and a mounting preoccupation with control. Already in 1960 he had made Ghana a republic and proclaimed himself its president.
On February 24, 1966, as he stopped in Burma on his way to China at the start of a grand tour aimed at solving the Vietnam conflict, army officers back home in Ghana intervened and took over power.
The group that organised the coup formed the National Liberation Council (NLC) with Lieut. Gen J.A. Ankrah as the Chairman. Nkrumah did not hear of the coup until he arrived in China.
Nkrumah ended up in exile in Guinea, where another experiment in "African socialism" was in progress. Guinea's President, Sekou Toure, a close friend of the deposed Ghanaian leader, gave Nkrumah the title "Co-president." Nkrumah made regular short-wave broadcasts to Ghana, published ideological treatises, and plotted a triumphal return to power until he grew ill and died in 1972, still in exile.
After the overthrow of Nkrumah, the coup makers ruled for over two years and arranged for an election which was won by Professor Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Progress Party (PP).
Professor Kofi Abrefa Busia who was born on July 11,1913 and died in August 28, 1978, was Prime Minister of Ghana from 1969 to 1972.
As leader of the opposition against Nkrumah, he fled the country on the grounds that his life was under threat. He later became a Professor of Sociology and Culture at the University of Leiden in the Hague, Netherlands.
He returned to Ghana in March 1966 after Kwame Nkrumah’s government was overthrown by the military, and was appointed as the Chairman of the National Advisory Committee of the NLC. In 1967/1968 he served as the Chairman of the Centre for Civic Education. He used this opportunity and sold himself as the next leader. He was also a Member of the Constitutional Review Committee. When the NLC lifted the ban on politics, Busia, together with friends in the defunct UP formed the Progress Party (PP).
In 1969, PP won the parliamentary elections with 104 of the 105 seats contested. This paved the way for him to become the next Prime Minister with Mr Justice Edward Akufo-Addo, a former Chief Justice, as a ceremonial President. Busia continued with NLC's anti-Nkrumaist stance and adopted a liberalised economic system. There was a mass deportation of half a million Nigerian citizens from Ghana, and a 44 per cent devaluation of the cedi in 1971 which met with a lot of resistance from the public.
While in Britain for a medical check-up, the army under Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong overthrew his government on January 13, 1972. He died from a heart attack in 1978.
After the overthrow of the Busia regime in 1972, Ghana went through a long period of military rule. The National Redemption Council (NRC) which overthrew Busia later became the Supreme Military Council One (SMC I), all under Gen Kutu Acheampong and later SMC II under Gen F.W.K Akuffo. On June 4, 1979, Flt Lt J. J. Rawlings’ Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) overthrew the government of the SMC II.
In an election supervised by the AFRC after three months in office, an Nkrumaist party, the People National Party (PNP) won, and formed the next government with Dr Hilla Limann as the president.
Dr Limann, a Career Diplomat, was born at Gwollu in the Upper Region in 1934 to Mr Limann, and Madam Hayaba.
Dr Limann was elected the presidential candidate of the People's National Party (PNP), the successor of the CPP, for the 1979 elections.
He polled 631,559 votes (35.32 per cent) in the June 18 elections to beat nine other candidates. He went into a run-off with Mr Victor Owusu, the Popular Front Party (PFP) candidate who had 533,928 (29.86 per cent) of the votes.
During the second round in July 1979, Dr Limann convincingly beat Mr Owusu to be elected president of the third republic. He was sworn into office on September 24, 1979, and took over from Flt Lt Rawlings and the AFRC.
He was plagued by internal squabbles in the party leading to his overthrow by Flt Lt Rawlings on December 31, 1981. Dr Limann formed the People's National Convention (PNC) to contest the 1992 elections when the ban on political activities was lifted. He came a distant third to President Rawlings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Professor Albert Adu Boahen of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Dr Limann stepped down for Dr Edward Mahama as the presidential candidate of the party during the 1996 polls. Dr Hilla Limann died at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in 1998.
Limann's administration was cut short on December 31, 1981, when Rawlings deposed him in another coup. The Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), composed of both civilian and military members, was established with Rawlings as Chairman.
In his second tenure in power, Rawlings’ policies became more centrist, and he began to advocate free-market reforms. However, despite the country's economic success, the Ghanaian government was criticised both at home and abroad for committing numerous abuses of human rights.
Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings who was born on June 22, 1947 in Accra, was twice the head of state of Ghana and was the 1st President of the Fourth Republic. He first appeared on the Ghanaian political scene on May 15, 1979 when he led a group of junior officers in the Ghana Air Force in an unsuccessful coup d'├ętat that resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. He was court-martialled in public and sentenced to death.
Due to his display of patriotism in his defence speeches, he was widely seen across the country as a true son of Ghana, and was nicknamed Junior Jesus for his initials "JJ". Before he could be executed, another group of junior officers within the Ghana Army led by Major Boakye-Djan, overthrew the then military government of Lieutenant General Fred Akuffo in a bloody coup on June 4, 1979. Major Boakye-Djan and his men also set Rawlings free from prison, and installed him as head of the new government — the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).
At the time of the coup, Ghana was already far into the process of returning to civilian rule and general elections were already scheduled. Hence, the AFRC went ahead to conduct an election and handed over power to Dr Hilla Limann who won the popular vote in the election to establish the Third Republic.
Less than two years later, Dr Limann's civilian and constitutional government was overthrown again by Jerry Rawlings on December 31, 1981. He then installed the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime.
In all Jerry Rawlings performed three coups d’etat in Ghana, two of which were successful.
In the early 1990s internal pressures led by a group identified with the Danquah-Busia tradition coupled with external pressures from Ghana's development partners forced the PNDC government to adopt constitutional rule. Citizens began demanding a more democratic form of government as the 1990s progressed.
Rawlings answered this demand by forming a National Commission for Democracy (NCD), empowered to hold regional debates and formulate some suggestions for a transition to multi-party democracy. Although opposition groups complained that the NCD was too closely associated with the PNDC, the commission continued its work through 1991.
In March of that year the NCD released a report recommending the election of an executive president, the establishment of a national assembly, and the creation of a prime minister post. The PNDC accepted the report, and the following year it was approved in a national referendum. Political parties were legalised with the provision that none could use names that had been used before, and a timetable was set for presidential and parliamentary elections.
Rawlings on many platforms professed his dislike for multiparty democracy, saying that it was alien to the Ghanaian people. But as elections drew near, he switched from being a military Head of State, retired from the Ghana Armed Forces on September 14, 1992, then ran and won in the late 1992 elections which the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) claimed was a stolen verdict although international observers judged the elections largely free and fair.
After two terms in office, barred by the constitution from standing in any election, he nominated his vice-president, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, as his choice to replace him as President. Ghanaians rejected his choice in the 2000 election by voting for the opposition NPP's candidate, John Kufuor.
Per constitutional mandate, Rawlings’ term of office ended in 2001; he retired in 2001 and was succeeded by Mr John Agyekum Kufuor, his main opponent in the 1996 elections. Kufuor succeeded in defeating Rawlings’ vice-president and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential candidate, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, in the 2000 vote, and did so again in 2004.
Mr John Agyekum Kufuor was born on December 8, 1938 in Kumasi, Ghana.
Mr Kufuor’s public service spans over thirty years. In 1967, he was appointed Chief Legal Officer and Town Clerk (City Manager) of Kumasi. He was a member of the 1968-69 and the 1979 Constituent Assemblies that drafted the Constitutions of the Second and Third Republics respectively. In addition he was a Founding Member of the Progress Party (PP) in 1969, the Popular Front Party (PFP) in 1979 and is a Founding Member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). He has twice been elected as a Member of Parliament during the Second and Third Republics. He has also been in political detention on two occasions as a result of military coups that overthrew the Second and Third Republics. He has been a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and in this capacity, he represented Ghana on several occasions.
As the Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Deputy Opposition Leader of the Popular Front Party (PFP) Parliamentary Group during the Third Republic, he was invited to accompany President Limann to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Summit Conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He was also a member of the Parliamentary Delegation that visited the United States of America (USA) in 1981 to talk to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on Ghana's economic problems.
Reports have it that in January, 1982, the leadership of the All People's Party (APP), which was an alliance of all the opposition parties, advised some leading members, including the Deputy Leader of the alliance, Alhaji Iddrisu Mahama, the General Secretary, Dr Obed Asamoah and Mr J. A. Kufuor to accept an invitation from the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) to serve in what was purported to be a national government. Mr Kufuor was appointed the Secretary for Local Government in this new government. As a Secretary for Local Government, he authored the Local Government Policy Guidelines that were to be the foundation of the current decentralised District Assemblies. He, however, resigned within seven months of acceptance of the position.
Mr J. A Kufuor won the presidential elections for the first time in December, 2000 and was sworn in as president on January 9, 2001. When he stood for the second time, he won for another four year term as permitted by the constitution.
He was succeded by the NDC presidential candidate, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, who won the Presidential run-off on Sunday, December 28, 2008. He defeated the NPP Presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in a keenly contested election that was full of suspense, tension and fear of the unknown.
Born on July 21, 1944 at Tarkwa in the Western Region, he hails from Ekumfi Otuam in the Mfantsiman East Constituency of the Central Region, Prof Mills on January 7, 1997 was sworn-in as the Vice President of Ghana.
In the year 2002, he was elected unopposed by the NDC to be its flag bearer and led the party into the 2004 election. Having lost that election, he was re-elected in December 2006 by an overwhelming 81.4 per cent, beating three other contestants, to lead NDC into the 2008 General election, which he won by 50.29 per cent.
He was sworn into office on January 7, 2009, and has since formed his cabinet with a pledge to hit the road running, eschew corruption in all its form and become a father of all.
As the world keep watching the democratic experimentation unfolding in Ghana, it is believed that every effort will be made by all Ghanaians including the government, political parties, civil society, academia and the media not to destroy the gains that have taken so many years and decades to nurture. One of democracy’s best shows is organising successful elections with the media enjoying front row seats. This is what it is hoped will prevail in Ghana for a long time to come.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Local plant for effective treatment of malaria (Page 14)

Tuesday March 10, 2009
THE government is to speed up ongoing research into a local plant, Cryptolepis, for the effective treatment of malaria.
Preliminary results into the efficacy of the plant, which abounds in Ghana, have indicated that the crude extract of the plant completely eliminates malaria parasites in less than four days with no adverse effects.
The plant, known locally as nibima (in Akuapem), is also effective in reducing high bodily temperature.
This was contained in the highlight of the 2009 Budget and Economic Policy Statement of Ghana which the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, presented to Parliament on March 5, 2009.
Dr Duffuor said the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) would conduct clinical trials on the medicinal plant, in collaboration with a strategic investor, Phytica Limited, under a public-private partnership agreement.
He said the success of the initiative would reduce the importation of malarial drugs into the country and encourage the production of the plant for use locally and for export.
To improve on effective healthcare delivery for national development, Dr Duffuor stated that the government would pursue major intervention measures in preventing malaria, which affects many of the people in the productive age.
He called for effective malaria control measures to eventually lead to the elimination of the disease and the intensification of education and advocacy to increase the utilisation of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) nation-wide.
He also indicated that the government would embark on indoor residual spraying (IRS) and scale up the bio-larvicidal project in the Central, Western and other regions of the country to eliminate malaria-causing mosquitoes.
He reiterated that malaria was a leading cause of morbidity in Ghana, which accounted for about 40 per cent of out-patient attendances.
The disease, according to health experts, is also the leading cause of death, especially among children under the age of five and pregnant women.
“Malaria affects productivity throughout the economy,” he pointed out.
On the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr Duffuor said the law governing the scheme would be reviewed to address the challenges that emerged after four years of its implementation.
He also announced that the government would commence work on the implementation of the one-time payment of insurance premium, adding that actuarial analysis relating thereto would start in earnest.
He stressed that waste and inefficiency in the system would be removed to address the challenges affecting the payment of claims, adding that District Mutual Health Insurance Schemes (DMHISs) would be networked to provide nation-wide services.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Settle outstanding claims, - Minister directs NHIA (page 28)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Health, Dr George Sipa Yankey, has directed the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to immediately make arrangements to pay all outstanding claims due healthcare providers under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
He said he had already had discussions with the officials of the authority and found out that there were enough funds to settle all debts. He, therefore, asked that the various schemes should furnish the authority with the necessary information on their debts for payments to be made.
At his first meeting with the heads of units within the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Accra, Dr Yankey said there was the need for a review of portions of the law governing the operations of the District Mutual Health Insurance Schemes (DMHISs), to prevent some of the operational challenges facing the schemes.
He reiterated the government’s decision to introduce a one-time premium payment for the NHIS, adding that it was possible.
Elaborating on how the government would be able to fund such a scheme, the Health Minister said the government had made the initial work and came to the conclusion that it was possible to get funds for the programme.
He, however, said all the necessary actuarial work would be conducted before implementation.
He explained that for this year for example, there was an estimated revenue of GH¢276 billion to be realised from various sources to finance the scheme, which he said when well managed should be able to cater for all insured persons after one-time payment of premium.
He said that amount when divided could provide GH¢14.74 for each Ghanaian, which was more than the GH¢7.2 minimum premium being paid under the scheme.
The NHIS is funded through the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), which is two and half per cent tax added to the Value Added Tax (VAT) as well as two and half per cent deduction from Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributions.
In addition to these sources of funding, Dr Yankey mentioned savings from the Emergency Motor Insurance Premium, which could also be used to support the scheme.
He pointed out that already a percentage of the population referred to as indigents (the very poor) were being cared for without any payment, adding that it was, therefore, possible for the rest of the population to pay once in their life time but continue to enjoy the facility.
According to him, the success of the programme when implemented, would depend on how effective Ghanaians as a people manage it to their own advantage.
He gave the assurance that good programmes which were initiated by the previous administration would be continued and mentioned the Regenerative Health and Nutrition Programme as a good preventive programme which needed to be deepened and widened to save the nation some of the cost on curative purposes.
Dr Yankey complained about what he termed as rivalry between some of the agencies under the ministry and gave the assurance to help solve all outstanding disagreements which was creating divisions.
In an answer to a question, he said he would do all within his ability to ensure that reviews of laws of the health sector were dealt with before the end of the year.
He appealed to the senior officials who were present at the meeting to rally behind him to perform, adding that, “I will need your help to succeed since if I fail, it means you have also failed”.
On behalf on the rest of the personnel of the ministry, the acting Chief Director of the Ministry, Madam Salimata Abdul-Salam, assured the minister that they would support him to achieve his target, since their main objective was to provide quality health care to the people of Ghana.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Budget Must Manage Deficit (Front Page)

THE Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, is expected to detail plans for managing the country’s budget deficit when he presents this year’s Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana in Parliament House today.
It will be the maiden budget of President Mills’s administration which came into office on January 7, 2009 and it is expected to come up with measures to deal with the key economic challenges facing the country, especially how to minimise the budget deficit which now stands at 14.9 per cent.
The measures are expected to be consistent with the signals given in the President’s State of the Nation Address, portions of which stated, “I will impose austerity measures throughout the government machinery to ensure that we realise significant savings.”
The austerity measures are expected to be far reaching, according to sources at the Finance Ministry.
The budget is also expected to address a wide range of issues and challenges facing the economy in a period of global economic slowdown to satisfy the various sectors, some of which have already presented proposals to that effect.
On its part, the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), for instance, expects the government to allocate more resources to tackle national productivity, industrial attachment incentives, the improvement of employable skills and energy and consumer protection against illicit trade.
The Executive Secretary of the GEA, Mr Alex Frimpong, told the Daily Graphic that the association was leading a crusade with the tripartite committee to establish production indicators in all sectors of the economy, including mining and construction, manufacturing and services.
He said the Management Development and Productivity Institute (MDPI), a training agency under the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, should be well resourced to carry out the exercise, which he said “is critical to national competitiveness”.
At a meeting with the Minister of Finance in Accra last week, the Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr Kofi Asamoah, said issues of wages and salaries should be considered in the budget.
The TUC raised issues on the single spine salary structure and said there was the need to take into consideration the fact that the Ghanaian worker had not been receiving adequate remuneration for some time now and added that the current economic situation should be considered in determining wages and salaries.
The congress also expressed the hope that the budget would commit more resources into the expansion of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), which it described as an effective vehicle for job creation and “one of the most important initiatives the government has taken in recent times”.
The TUC said the NYEP was an important national programme that had the potential of creating decent jobs for the youth across the country, as the high rate of unemployment and underemployment among the youth posed a great danger to the social and political stability of the country.
It pointed out that its own evaluation of the programme had revealed that workers employed under the programme were being paid below the national minimum wage, saying that they were receiving their salaries irregularly and in some cases salaries were delayed for more than five months.
The TUC said although the programme was designed to create half a million jobs by the end of 2009, official reports showed that it had created 108,000 jobs by the end of 2007 and that at the time of the evaluation in 2008 the recruitment of new workers under the NYEP had been suspended due to lack of funds.
In the State of the Nation Address which many saw as a forerunner to the budget, Professor Mills had noted that there was the need for the country to expand its exports, cut down its import bill, manage its finances carefully, as well as live within its means.
The President explained the point further when he said, “We are working on a number of measures and the Finance Minister will announce in detail the specific measures aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability in the budget statement to be presented shortly.”
Giving hints as to what to expect in the budget, Prof Mills said the government would reduce State Protocol budget by half, reduce official foreign travel budget by half, as well as reduce official seminars and workshops budget by half.
In addition, he gave the hint that the government would also closely monitor the targets and dividends of state-owned companies and enterprises, review the exemptions regime, increase efficiency in revenue collection and negotiate the single spine wages and salaries regime.
These measures, which are expected to be elaborated in this year’s budget, are expected to help the country to reduce the overall national debt which is reported to stand at US$7.6 billion.

KBTH can't cope with accident cases (Spread)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
WORKERS at the country’s premier hospital, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), have said they are unable to cope with the volume of accident cases reported at the Accident Centre because of the increasing numbers and inadequate facilities.
Figures provided by the hospital authorities showed that the number of accident cases reported at the hospital which stood at 3,410 in 2007 rose to 4,101 in 2008, an increase of 20.3 per cent.
Throwing more light on the issue at the opening of its annual performance review seminar in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the hospital, Professor Nii Otu Nartey, said what made the matter more serious was the fact that in addition to accident cases, the number of other patients also kept increasing and stated that the hospital recorded 323,752 out-patients in 2008, as against 277,292 in 2007.
Prof Nartey, therefore, called for a review of the various interventions which were implemented over the years to reduce the carnage on the roads.
On the increase in the number of OPD patients, the CEO attributed it to the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which he said was also creating problems for the hospital because of delays in the payment of fees.
He said records of NHIS attendance at the hospital showed a steady rise from 15,000 in 2006 to 64,000 in 2007 and 132,934 in 2008.
Prof Nartey said although the NHIS was a laudable project, the delay in reimbursement was affecting the operations of the hospital and said the total cost of services rendered from 2006 to 2008 was GH¢5,635,829.98, out of which GH¢3,933,391.56 had been paid.
“The outstanding bill yet to be paid is GH¢1,702,438.42, being 30 per cent of total claims submitted,” he said.
The CEO also observed that the free maternal health care which was introduced in 2008 had increased the number of deliveries at the KBTH, thereby reducing its effectiveness at handling complicated deliveries that needed specialists care.
Prof Nartey also touched on other areas and pointed out that the hospital continued to grapple with congestion at the Surgical, Medical and Emergency Unit where non-trauma cases were seen, adding that in 2007 a total of 7,616 cases were admitted to the unit, increasing to 9,801 in 2008, representing a rise of 29 per cent.
On some of its achievement during the year under review, the CEO said for the first in the history of the country a team of doctors at the hospital teamed up with their colleagues from the United Kingdom to undertake kidney transplant on three patients who were currently doing well.
He hinted that plans were underway to perform more kidney transplants in May this year and added that the hospital was making plans to build a local team which would, in due course, take over the essential surgical procedure of kidney transplanting.
The CEO also announced that as part of its efforts to introduce cutting-edge methods in treating patients, it had introduced an advanced method in treating prostrate cancer with a method referred to as brachytherapy.
He explained that the method had minimal post-operative complications, as well as higher success rate, adding that a second batch of patients underwent brachytherapy last month which was performed solely by a local team of doctors and other medical professionals.
In his opening address, the Director of Administration of the hospital, Mr Chris Nartey, said the purpose of the two-day seminar was to offer the heads of all the units the opportunity to share ideas and experiences to help them to improve on their performance for the future.
In addition, he explained, it would help in the preparation of a programme for this year, as well as other programmes which were needed towards improved healthcare delivery.

NHIA rescues 28 schemes (Front Page)

Saturday February 28, 2009

WORKERS at the country’s premier hospital, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), have said they are unable to cope with the volume of accident cases reported at the Accident Centre because of the increasing numbers and inadequate facilities.
Figures provided by the hospital authorities showed that the number of accident cases reported at the hospital which stood at 3,410 in 2007 rose to 4,101 in 2008, an increase of 20.3 per cent.
Throwing more light on the issue at the opening of its annual performance review seminar in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the hospital, Professor Nii Otu Nartey, said what made the matter more serious was the fact that in addition to accident cases, the number of other patients also kept increasing and stated that the hospital recorded 323,752 out-patients in 2008, as against 277,292 in 2007.
Prof Nartey, therefore, called for a review of the various interventions which were implemented over the years to reduce the carnage on the roads.
On the increase in the number of OPD patients, the CEO attributed it to the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which he said was also creating problems for the hospital because of delays in the payment of fees.
He said records of NHIS attendance at the hospital showed a steady rise from 15,000 in 2006 to 64,000 in 2007 and 132,934 in 2008.
Prof Nartey said although the NHIS was a laudable project, the delay in reimbursement was affecting the operations of the hospital and said the total cost of services rendered from 2006 to 2008 was GH¢5,635,829.98, out of which GH¢3,933,391.56 had been paid.
“The outstanding bill yet to be paid is GH¢1,702,438.42, being 30 per cent of total claims submitted,” he said.
The CEO also observed that the free maternal health care which was introduced in 2008 had increased the number of deliveries at the KBTH, thereby reducing its effectiveness at handling complicated deliveries that needed specialists care.
Prof Nartey also touched on other areas and pointed out that the hospital continued to grapple with congestion at the Surgical, Medical and Emergency Unit where non-trauma cases were seen, adding that in 2007 a total of 7,616 cases were admitted to the unit, increasing to 9,801 in 2008, representing a rise of 29 per cent.
On some of its achievement during the year under review, the CEO said for the first in the history of the country a team of doctors at the hospital teamed up with their colleagues from the United Kingdom to undertake kidney transplant on three patients who were currently doing well.
He hinted that plans were underway to perform more kidney transplants in May this year and added that the hospital was making plans to build a local team which would, in due course, take over the essential surgical procedure of kidney transplanting.
The CEO also announced that as part of its efforts to introduce cutting-edge methods in treating patients, it had introduced an advanced method in treating prostrate cancer with a method referred to as brachytherapy.
He explained that the method had minimal post-operative complications, as well as higher success rate, adding that a second batch of patients underwent brachytherapy last month which was performed solely by a local team of doctors and other medical professionals.
In his opening address, the Director of Administration of the hospital, Mr Chris Nartey, said the purpose of the two-day seminar was to offer the heads of all the units the opportunity to share ideas and experiences to help them to improve on their performance for the future.
In addition, he explained, it would help in the preparation of a programme for this year, as well as other programmes which were needed towards improved healthcare delivery.

Tripartite Committee to Convene (Front Page)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

THE Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, has directed the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) to convene immediately and determine the national daily minimum wage for this year.
The minister explained that his action was consistent with the President’s State of the Nation Address and the need to factor the minimum wage into the 2009 Budget, which is to be laid before Parliament next month.
Dr Duffuor is to present the 2009 Economic Policy and Budget Statement of the government to Parliament on Thursday, March 5, 2009.
The Majority Leader, Mr Alban S.K Bagbin, made this known yesterday when he presented the Business Statement of the House for next week.
He explained that the budget statement would be presented to the House in accordance with the Standing Order 140, which requires the government to present its budget to the House for approval.
In his address Dr Duffuor said “Even though there has been limited time to undertake this task, due mainly to the short transition period, we still believe strongly that the social partners should be consulted before the budget statement is finalised”.
On the salary issue, the Finance Minister cautioned that in kick-starting the salary negotiation process, there was the need to take into consideration the enormous challenges facing the economy which were threatening the macro-economic stability necessary for accelerated growth.
The minister said this at a meeting in Accra yesterday held to enable officials of the Finance Ministry to interact with stakeholders on the labour front.
It was well represented by the Ministry of Manpower and Employment, the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, the Ghana Statistical Service and the leadership of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
Others were representatives from the 17 unions of the TUC, the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Health Workers Group, among others.
In his opening remarks, Dr Duffuor said the government was committed to pursuing a wage policy aimed at ensuring equity in pay systems, while tying workers’ remuneration to productivity.
He explained that although the ministry had planned the meeting since the beginning of the transition, it had to delay because it took some time for the transition team to complete its work.
He took the opportunity to urge members of the NTC to be open-minded in their deliberations.
For his part, the Minister of Manpower and Employment, Mr Stephen Kwao Amoanor, expressed the hope that the committee would come up with decisions which could build bridges among all sides, as well as ensure harmony and peace on the labour front for a better Ghana.
The Secretary-General of the TUC, Mr Kofi Asamoah, said organised labour welcomed the decision by the government before the budget was presented, adding that it had not been happy to learn from the press that the budget was going to be presented without its input.
On wages and salaries, he explained that the process to put in place a single spine salary structure for Ghanaian workers began in 2006, with the first part being completed in June last year, after which the process was truncated.
Mr Asamoah said as the NTC met to deliberate on the issue, there was the need to take into consideration the fact that the Ghanaian worker had not been receiving adequate remuneration for some time now and added that the current economic situation should be considered in determining wages and salaries.
The President of the GEA, Mr Charles Cofie, said Ghana could only attain the $1,000 per capita, as well as a middle- income status, if there were fairness, equity and transparency at the labour front.
He, therefore, called for openness in all discussions involving employers and workers.
The meeting continued behind closed doors.