The University of Health & Allied Sciences (UHAS) is starting its medical degree programme in the 2014 academic year. This was announced by Prof. Kofi Anyidoho, Chairman of Council, during the swearing in of the first fully constituted Council of the University by the Honorable Minister of Education, Prof. Naana Opoku-Agyeman in Ho this week.
In a follow up interview, UHAS Vice Chancellor, Prof. Fred Binka, revealed that admissions of medical students are currently in progress with 800+ applicants out of which over 90 have an aggregate of up to eight. From this number, about 50 students will finally be admitted to form the first medical class after taking an aptitude test and undergoing selection interviews. Some consideration will be given to a few students from disadvantaged schools in the Volta region.
Expectedly, this announcement has stimulated questions about the readiness of the three year old University, adequacy of its faculty, preparedness of the Volta Regional Hospital to serve as a Teaching Hospital etc. It was for purposes of addressing these that I happily cornered Prof. Binka.
Firstly, UHAS has started the accreditation process prescribed by the National Accreditation Board with the first review done with approval to roll out a three year pre-clinical programme. This means that it is only after three years that full blown clinical training requiring a fully equipped Teaching hospital may be necessary. This notwithstanding, the Vice Chancellor pointed out that the current state of the Volta Regional Hospital is no different from the Central Regional Hospital, which is now serving as a Teaching Hospital for the University of Cape Coast Medical School. Even so, plans for further upgrades are being drawn.
UHAS’s model for medical training appears to be a departure from what has become the norm in Ghana. UHAS’s strategy aims to deviate from the norm where the location of Teaching Hospitals has seen an over concentration of health professionals in the regional capital even as hospitals in surrounding districts suffer crippling shortages of key staff thereby raising fundamental questions about whether the full benefits of a present and functional medical school have been maximized. A typical example is the Tamale Teaching Hospital which has over 100+ doctors although the rest of the 26 districts in the region overseen by the Ghana Health Service collectively has less than 30 doctors, thus raising questions about hunger in the midst of plenty.
The UHAS model plans to strengthen both the Centre – the Teaching Hospital – and surrounding existing District Hospitals which would all be deployed as training sites with Specialists on site to serve as faculty for medical students on rotation. As a practical demonstration of this model, UHAS has recently recruited an Orthopedic Surgeon as a part time lecturer who continues to be based, not in the Regional capital, but in St. Anthony’s Hospital, in Dzodze in the Ketu North district.
This year, UHAS has rolled out a visionary sponsorship programme to train 11 specialists at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons to serve as faculty and to offer service to the region. Six of these doctors are currently being sponsored by UHAS to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emergency Medicine, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and laboratory Medicine. Five of them are already specialists and are being supported to sub specialize in Urology, Gynecological Oncology, Trauma and Orthopedics and General Obstetrics and Gynecology.
In the short term, most of these doctors are training outside the Volta region in accredited facilities with the understanding that any breaks will be spent in hospitals in the Volta region. In these hospitals, programs will be outlined to provide enriching practical experiences that will augment whatever skills are being acquired during their training.
In the medium term, UHAS is recruiting lecturers for various clinical departments which would then enable the University to apply for accreditation to offer its own post graduate training. Indications are that the Departments of Internal Medicine and Surgery might be the most likely to submit their applications for consideration to start training specialists. This is because of the existing faculty and advanced stage of recruitment of new faculty. When that happens, doctors including those not necessarily being recruited as faculty, will come to the Volta region to train and in the process, offer critical service to the surrounding communities.
Further, with a strong research bias, UHAS plans to roll out a special programme to boost the research skills and abilities of clinicians, especially targeting those doctors in need of focused support in research and analytic methods to complete their Fellowship training with the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons.
UHAS continues to explore mutually beneficial partnerships to advance health and healthcare nationwide. The region currently has a rich distribution of Catholic Hospitals, most of them having existing relationships with various foreign specialists who have for decades been embarking on specialist outreaches to offer healthcare services. The idea now is to explore the possibility of redesigning these existing specialist outreach programs to various district hospitals into a coordinated medical training program.
18th September, 2014