Healthcare in Ghana
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The healthcare infrastructure in Ghana is fairly limited. While the Ghanaian government is making progress in improving healthcare, public hospitals remain overcrowded and severely underfunded. Emergency medical services in Ghana are almost non-existent.
Expats living in Ghana almost always use private facilities, which offer a considerably higher standard of treatment and modern medical facilities.
It is best for expats to negotiate private health insurance coverage into their employment package or purchase a comprehensive health insurance policy before moving to Ghana.
Public healthcare in Ghana
Public hospitals in Ghana are generally funded by the government. Religious groups also play a fundamental role in providing the Ghanaian population with medical assistance. Many new arrivals find that the quality of public hospitals and clinics in Ghanaian cities is inadequate when compared to medical facilities in Western countries.
In 2003, the Ghanaian government introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which dramatically improved the health situation in the country and eliminated the need for Ghanaian citizens to pay for their treatment up front. The new system also increased the accessibility of healthcare for Ghana’s poorest citizens.
While expats can access the services of the NHIS for a nominal fee, most prefer to be treated at a private facility and invest in a private health insurance policy.
The standard and availability of public healthcare in Ghana varies. In the major urban centres, such as Accra, there are numerous hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. However, most rural areas are isolated and without modern healthcare facilities. In these areas, locals usually choose traditional African treatments over travelling long distances to access healthcare.
Private healthcare in Ghana
Most expats living in Ghana use private healthcare facilities. Private hospitals in Ghana generally provide a better standard of treatment and contain more modern equipment than public hospitals.
The standard of facilities at private hospitals in Ghana varies, but those in areas with big expat communities are well-equipped and comfortable.
The waiting times are very short at private clinics in Ghana and expats will find that doctors and medical staff speak English fluently.
Pharmacies and medicine in Ghana
Pharmacies can easily be found in any major town or city in Ghana and, although rare, some 24-hour pharmacies do operate in the country. However, only certain pharmacies in Ghana are licensed to dispense prescription drugs.
Expats are advised to check that any medication they are purchasing has been approved by the Ghanaian Pharmacy Council.
There are serious concerns about some pharmacies in Ghana selling fake drugs and low-quality medication. The safest option is to purchase medicine from a pharmacy attached to a reputable medical facility.
Expats suffering from chronic ailments or needing prescription medication should try to bring a supply of the medication with them to Ghana, as well as copies of the prescription and generic names of the drugs.
Health insurance in Ghana
Expats moving to Ghana should ensure that they have taken out private health insurance coverage before starting life in the country. Some expats will have health insurance provided by their employer as part of their employment package.
There are a number of private health insurance companies that operate in Ghana, including First Fidelity Health, Med-X Health Systems and Momentum Africa. Expats may consider coverage by international health insurance providers, such as Axa PPP, Allianz, Cigna and Bupa.
Private insurance protects expats from a wide range of health issues and covers treatment in private medical facilities in Ghana.
Expats should also consider policies which cover them for medical evacuation and repatriation, which will provide adequate cover should they need to be transported to another country or back home for treatment.
Health hazards in Ghana
Malaria is a serious health concern in Ghana. It is essential that expats living in Ghana are on a course of anti-malarial medication. As malaria is transferred via mosquito bites, expats should take necessary precautions such as using mosquito repellents and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Expats experiencing any of the symptoms of malaria, including fever, joint pain, fatigue, nausea and diarrhoea, must seek treatment at a reputable clinic.
Ghana is among the countries with the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world and large numbers of people die as a result of the disease each year. However, expats who take appropriate precautions against the disease, such as always using condoms and not sharing syringes, need not be concerned.
Expats should also be aware that food and water can trigger illnesses in Ghana. Expats should avoid drinking tap water and having ice cubes in their drinks. Instead, they should buy bottled water or boil tap water before drinking it.
Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Ghana
The only compulsory vaccination required for those travelling to Ghana is for yellow fever. Expats from certain countries may need to provide a certificate when applying for their visa.
Expats moving to Ghana should ensure they are on a course of anti-malarial medication.
Expats should also ensure that the following routine vaccinations are up-to-date before travelling to Ghana:
Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
Hepatitis A and B
Rabies (for those who plan on visiting rural areas or spending time around animals)
Emergency medical services in Ghana
The standard of emergency medical services in Ghana is poor in most places, and outside the major cities, they are almost non-existent. In the event of an emergency, expats can call an ambulance on 193, the medical emergency number.
However, most hospitals in Ghana, even the private healthcare facilities, only have a small number of ambulances available and waiting times for ambulances in Ghana can be very long, so it may be faster for patients to make their own way to a hospital by car or metered taxi.
Alternatively, many expats rely on private companies that provide emergency services such as medical evacuation as well as private ambulance and clinics.