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Decentralise post-graduate medical education – Akufo-Addo to WACP

President Akufo-Addo said doctors produced by the West African College of Physicians (WACP) remain the toast of most advanced countries

President Akufo-Addo has charged the West African College of Physicians (WACP) to take steps to decentralize post-graduate medical education in West Africa in order to increase the number of specialists in the region.

Addressing attendees of the 46th Annual General Scientific Meeting of the West African College of Physicians (WACP) at the University of Ghana (UoG), President Akufo-Addo said doctors produced by the College remain the toast of most advanced countries and this attests to the “quality of post graduate doctors” who are trained by WACP.

“I cannot ask you to lower your standards, but is it possible to train more and possibly, expand your sub specialty training to cover more areas such as intensive care doctors.

“The centralized nature of the training requires doctors to move from the districts and regions to the few teaching hospitals. Such doctors have to struggle with accommodation, separation from their families and in some instances, relocation of their whole families,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“This has been a huge disservice riding the regions and districts of trained doctors and specialists and worsening the already huge disparity in the rural-urban distribution of doctors.

“It is my plea that as you deliberate on these implications, that you fashion out ways to decentralize training of medical doctors, not only at the undergraduate level, but also at the post-graduate level,” the President added.

Expanded accreditation

To achieve the proposed decentralization of medical specialist education, President Akufo-Addo noted that WACP must take steps to give accreditation to non traditional teaching hospitals in member countries.

“The success of this decentralization rests on the willingness of your college to accredit more facilities outside the conventional teaching hospitals for such training.

“The pandemic has challenged us to take a critical look at some of the routines we have established as norms. Let us apply the lessons learnt to decentralize post-graduate education,” Akufo-Addo noted.

COVID-19 Changes

Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman Manu in his statement noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, even though a terrible health crisis, brought with it a “few good things” to various countries in the region and particularly, Ghana.

Amongst the “good things” he alluded to are increased investments, in that, from just two laboratories in Ghana which could do PCR test (Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, NMIMR, and Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, KCCR), the country can now boast of about 60 centres that can do PCR tests in the country.

“Today we have built capacity that can allow us to store millions of ultra-low temperature vaccines that come into our country,” Kwaku Agyeman Manu said.

“Our President, after seeing the exposure of gaps in our facilities, boldly went to the market and promised the nation that he was going to put up one hundred and eleven (111) different hospitals in our country such that every particular district in our country will have a hospital.

“The good news is that these projects are ongoing and they have started in various places in the country,” he added.

WACP

The West African College of Physicians was established in 1976 as an association of medical specialists in the following disciplines: community health, family medicine, internal medicine, laboratory medicine. It is made up of specialties such as Anatomical Pathology, Chemical Pathology, Haematology and Medical Microbiology, Paediatrics, and Psychiatry.

Initially, the College operated in the five English-speaking West African countries. In recent years, its membership has expanded to include the eight French-speaking countries.

The College is organised into faculties made up of specialists in each of the major disciplines listed above. Currently, there are eight chapters; The Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, The Republic of Benin, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The objectives of the College are: to promote professional training of physicians in West Africa; to promote the standards of professional practice, ethics and morals of physicians in West Africa; promote health and healthcare in West Africa; to determine persons to be designated as specialist physicians after due consideration of their training, qualifications and experience

The College is also responsible for postgraduate specialist training of doctors in the five Anglophone West African countries. Its training programmes cover the six specialties listed above. Its sister college, the West African College of Surgeons, is responsible for training in the remaining, surgical-related, specialties of medicine.

The College organises educational and scientific programmes, including an Annual General and Scientific Meeting that rotates through the various member countries.

Extensive collaborations have been developed with equivalent organisations around the world, including the Royal Colleges of the United Kingdom, the South African Colleges and the American College of Physicians.

Wilberforce Asare

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