Ghana needs a robust and resilient health structure to aid research into diseases for timely detection of future epidemics, the Director of Finance, Ghana Health Service, Mr Mustapha Adams Hamidu, has said.
He said existing health research organizations must be strengthened to serve as a strong link between academia and health practitioners to sight emerging diseases.
Mr. Hamidu told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview that setting aside a dedicated fund for epidermic preparedness, was also critical to ensuring Ghana’s preparedness for epidemics.
“We need to set aside resources for critical and unplanned expenses so that we are not found wanting during health emergencies,” he said.
The Director of Finance said although Ghana had done well in the containment of COVID-19, the pandemic tested the capacity of the nation’s health infrastructure and the availability and resolve of health personnel to handle the outbreak.
“We were caught pants down at the onset of the outbreak, but we have been able to manage the disease within the shortest possible time, lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic have got Ghana prepared for any future epidemic than it was before,” he said.
He lauded the GHS for the active role it played over the years in the control of infectious diseases by improving its disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion activities.
Dr Bedima Duut, a Legal Consultant and the Berekum Municipal Health Director, also called for the involvement of health workers at the district or local level in the containment of epidemics.
“We need to build the capacities of health directorates and workers at the local level for coordination, surveillance, case management, infection prevention and control, risk communication, and social mobilization,” he said.
The Municipal Health Director said without adequate funding and proper preparedness for epidemics, the health of citizens could not be guaranteed as presently, no fund had been established directly by the constitution or any law for epidermic preparedness.
Dr Duut called for the inclusion of epidermic preparedness grants in the formula for the disbursement of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF).
He stressed the need for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to establish a Standing Expert Committee on Public Health Emergencies.
“A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among all relevant state agencies should be signed to provide the nature and scope of collaboration during public health emergencies,” he said.
The Municipal Health Director called on the Ministry of Finance to include emergency preparedness activities in the budget guidelines issued for each financial year, stating that a percentage of the total government revenue should be disbursed directly to the Health Departments, through the Assemblies specifically for epidemic preparedness.
Epidemic preparedness constitutes all the activities that must be undertaken from the national to the health facility levels to respond effectively to disease outbreaks.
The elements of epidemic preparedness include the need to ensure that a routine surveillance system can detect outbreaks as soon as it occurs, and to ensure that the system is organized to confirm, investigate, and respond to outbreaks.
The UN on the 2021 international Day for Epidemic Preparedness said it was important to strengthen epidemic prevention by applying lessons learnt on epidemic management and how to ensure the continuous delivery of basic health services.
It called on nations to raise the level of preparedness to have the earliest and most adequate response to an epidemic that might arise.