Thousands of children in rural Ghana under the age of five years risk dying of the six childhood killer diseases as the over 13,000 Community Health Nurses who administer these vaccines are on an indefinite strike which government has turned a blind eye to.
These dangerous diseases that pose serious threats to the child are measles, tetanus, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, tuberculosis and whooping cough.
With the Ministry of Health confirming Yellow Fever cases in the Volta and Brong Ahafo regions, it is bad news for Ghana as Community Health Nurses who go to rural areas to administer the vaccines are on indefinite strike.
Community Health Nurses educate the public on preventive health, distribute treated mosquito nets and compile all the data on preventive health only for district directors to sign and forward to the Ministry of Health.
Government of Ghana relies on this data to seek funding from donors to address healthcare issues.
However, Community Health Nurses face daunting challenges in remote communities, where they are usually the first point of contact in saving lives, but they take home only half the money State Registered Nurses who work in big towns and cities are paid.
Many risk their lives by paddling canoes to other communities in order to deliver much-needed healthcare to Ghanaians in rural communities while others walk for miles to deliver much-needed healthcare.
The strike, if allowed to linger on, will have cataclysmic consequences on healthcare in rural Ghana and lead to the needless loss of lives, as well as impact negatively on preventive healthcare data collection and processing.
While on strike to press home their legitimate concerns, some District Directors of Health and Public Health Nurses are intimidating them, threatening not to validate them for salary.
The pressure is also mounting because the District Directors of Health need the monthly reports from Community Health Nurses to sign and forward to the Ministry of Health.
The deafening silence of government is striking because Health Minister Alex Segbefia has announced plans to engage retired midwives to make up for the shortfall in that category of health professionals in the public sector since the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has warned that health delivery faces dire consequences if efforts are not made to retain the over 500 midwives who were due for retirement between 2015 and 2016.
President of Community Health Nurses Association of Ghana (CHNAG), Mrs Esther Frimpomaa Bamfo told The Finder that Community Health Nurses face a myriad of challenges, but impediments to career progression of its members and the change of name from Community Health Nurse to Nursing Assistant are their major concerns that require urgent attention.
She argued that the decision by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to issue Nursing Assistant certificate to their members, who were admitted by the Community Health Nurse’s requirement after the completion of their course, was unacceptable. She noted that Community Health Nurses have suffered discrimination, unfair treatment and frustration for far too long and will not relent in their quest to have the issues resolved to their satisfaction.
Mrs Bamfo is worried that very little opportunity exists for members of the association to upgrade themselves in an era where healthcare delivery was fast changing and required constant upgrading of knowledge and skills.
To buttress her point, she said some of its members had to serve for nine years without being given study leave to upgrade themselves while those who completed access courses at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) were barely given the opportunity to pursue diploma courses.
She noted that even though its members in rural communities use their own resources to buy motorbikes in order to facilitate data collection in hard-to-reach-areas, they are least recognised by other stakeholders in healthcare delivery.
Mrs Bamfo said they proposed to government to upgrade all certificate holders to diploma to enable them further their education while government phases out certificate programmes.
According to her, the Ashanti and Greater Accra regions have been given 30 slots each while all other regions have 25 slots for study leave for Community Health Nurses.
She noted that with this limited numbers, it would take several years to upgrade all 13,000 Community Health Nurses to diploma status.
She, therefore, proposed distant learning as an alternative if government disagrees with a wholesale upgrade of all its members to diploma level.
To her, it is absurd for a Community Health Nurse to be given a certificate after two years of study.
She was sad that instead of recognising their unparalleled contribution to healthcare in Ghana, they are rather being treated as trash.
According to her, Community Health Nurses compile all the data at the community level, validate the date, submit to district health offices for Public Health Nurses to just add their signature and forward to the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health for government to rely on such data to source for funding from donors.
Source: The Finder
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