Information gathered by this paper after carefully monitoring activities at the Senior High Schools across the country indicates that, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has seized the Free Medical/Health Screening for students.
The situation has become a big challenge especially with the free Senior High School program which has resulted in a large number of students entering the Senior High Schools.
The Free SHS Medical Screening has been the collaborative program of the Ministry of Education through the Ghana Education Service (GES) and being implemented by the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
However, the Ghana Education Service (GES) has failed to release funds for the programme over the past two to three years, even though government (Ghana Education Service), according to our information, had released the funds.
According to sources close to the Ghana Health Service, the GES instead of releasing the funds to GHS to continue the programme, rather employed people who are not professional medical practitioners to carry out the screening for the students.
The Sources revealed that, these newly recruited “unqualified persons” do very little for the pupils and yet filed bills for payment.
“Because these persons are not qualified, they can take over a month to do the screening for the pupils; something that can be done in a day. What they do is that they will come today and take the vitals, leave and come after two weeks to take another vital, leave and come after three weeks to take remaining vitals. In doing so, majority of students miss out in the screening,” they explained.
Meanwhile, some parents who have spoken to this paper also expressed their disappointment in government and said, the Ministry of education is playing with the life of their children in the various secondary school which is affecting the medical records from various schools.
Parents however are calling on government to look into it and close all loopholes so as to allow the program to run effectively by using the right people to implement it.
Speaking to a Public Health Physician, Mr. Benjamin Arhin (BSc, MPH & PhDs), he indicated that the free medical screening has been part of the free SHS policy and an excellent intervention for the generation of Ghanaian youth.
He commended the implementers of this policy but noted that the current state of the programme is worrying.
Benjamin Arhin said practical ways are needed to revamp and augment the programme to make it very effective.
“As a friend, advocate and a staunch supporter of the free SHS policy which has come to stay in Ghana, I took my time as a researcher to monitor the first three (3) years when the programme began in its full force in 2017 through 2020 and without mincing words, the free medical screening as part of the free SHS policy was an excellent intervention for the generation of Ghanaian youth which the implementers of this policy received personal and public commendation.”
He admitted that there are some overwhelming challenges in the implementation of the programme in the last three (3) years from the later part of 2020 up to 2023, and said that these batches of students who have benefited from the free SHS policy with a total number of 1.2 million have still not gone through any medical screening.
This exercise he noted, is very crucial in the sense that the schools will have records of students’ health status in the country and identify any eminent medical condition of students at risk for early interventions.
In seeking interventions for this unfortunate development, Benjamin Arhin had petitioned the Office of the Presidency, Ministry of Education, Director General, Ghana Education Service, Ministry of Health and the Director General of Ghana Health Service, but yet to receive any response from these institutions.
He said, we cannot keep a blind eye to the health needs of our promising youth and hence advocate that the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service should collaborate with other stakeholders to finance the medical screening and ensure the continuity of the policy so that the newly admitted students in SHS can also receive medical screening.
“Even though we are faced with global financial crisis, I hereby wish to advance the following recommendations so that the programme can get back on track. Parents must ensure that their wards undergo the medical screening at the nearest hospital in their catchment area before going to school i.e., parents would have to bear the cost involved, National Health Insurance Scheme should redeem the cost for all SHS students who attend any health facility with their National Health Insurance card, Government should partner with reputable Non-Governmental Organisations to support the medical screening for all first-year students and The Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service should liaise with the health facilities to support the medical screening,” he said.
He also asked the offices petitioned to take the necessary steps to continue with the medical screening for all the first-year students under the free SHS policy.
“I am ardent that you would use your good office to take the necessary actions to ensure the continuity of the programme,” he said.