Ghana has only 14 active psychiatric doctors.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Authority (MHA), Dr Akwasi Osei, has bemoaned the fact that there are only 14 active psychiatric doctors in the country.
He said that meant that the doctor-patient ratio was around 1: 2 million people, which, he said, was woefully inadequate.
Dr Osei made this known in an interview after a sensitisation meeting with psychology graduates on national service in health institutions, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), as well as the University of Ghana School of Medical and Dentistry (UGSMD) and the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology.
He said psychiatric doctors in the country used to be 22, but eight were currently on retirement, leaving only 14 of them in active service.
With regard to psychiatric nurses, Dr Osei said there were only 1,600 in the system instead of 20,000 as required by the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, making their work strenuous.
The country, he said, also had only one occupational therapist, who is also a lecturer at the University of Ghana.
To lessen the burden in the area of mental health, the GHS, according to Dr Osei, liaised with the National Service Secretariat to post psychology students from the universities to health facilities for them to help with public education, assist mental patients to take their drugs regularly and offer counselling services.
Dr Osei said because they were not regarded as clinical psychologists, they were placed in health facilities where there were psychiatric nurses available to supervise them.
The psych corps programme, which started four years ago with 60 students, now has 100 students on board.
It is supported by the Yale University in the United States of America (USA).
Dr Osei expressed concern over the students’ future careers, saying that they were liaising with the Ministry of Health (MoH) so that at the end of their service they could be employed as health information officers or alternatively they could upgrade to become psychologists.
A clinical psychologist and lecturer of the UGSMD, Professor Angela Ofori-Atta, in a progress report, said so far the programme had been beneficial to mental health.
She, however, called on health facilities to not burden the psych corps with duties that were not in their line of training.
She also advised the students to not portray themselves as psychologists to people, since that would amount to impersonation, which is criminal.
A Director in charge of Mental Health at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Cynthia Sottie, who represented the Director General of the GHS, Dr Ebenezer Appiah Denkyirah, said the GHS would look into ways that the services of the psych corps could be paid for by the Ministry of Health.