In a country where there is the dearth of human resource with the requisite competences there is always the need to design and carry out training programmes to bring on board more professional hands to fill up the existing gaps.
There is also an old adage that says â€œit is better late than neverâ€ for Ghanaian youths, who have completed senior secondary school with hopes of aspiring to work in the medical field.
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) are health providing institutions that still give the teeming youth opportunities to pursue training programmes that give them employment in the same institutions.
It should be noted that the exodus of qualified nurses from the country for greener pastures leaving the load of work on few medical staff to manage dates back several decades.
Health care at that time was difficult to access not forgetting when Ghanaians had to stay in queues for days and pay bribes to be able to see a doctor.
The Doctor-Patient ratio in the Upper East stands at 1: 34,000 and this tells much on the nurses in the recuperating wards or at the Out Patients Department (OPD).
This Writer would want to thank the hard working Management of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), who are working relentlessly to ensure fair distribution of health staff in the country.
We must not forget to pay glowing tribute to Doctors Elias Sory, Director General (GHS); Dr Appiah Denkyira and Dr Erasmus Agongo, both Regional Directors of Health Service, and Dr Joseph Kwesi Amankwah of the Public Health Directorate, for the advocacy roles they have played to bring on board more hands into the health industry.
Their ingenious concerns for improving the health sector gave birth to the Health Assistants Training School with the support of the then Government.
Following this, the Health Assistants Training School in Bolgatanga (HATS) was established in 2006 after the GHS had expressed concern about sending health personnel from the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) to handle patients at the various health facilities.
The key objective for the establishment of HATS is to train middle-level professionals in the country for the health sector.
These provisions did not leave out the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions where there is high rate of illiteracy and poverty and access to health care is inadequate.
Trainees in these schools go through 18 months of intensive training and get attached to hospitals.
Unlike Community Health Nurses, whose work is mostly based in the communities, the Health Assistantâ€™s work in the hospitals is basically to assist nurses in the wards to give care to patients.
ENROLMENT / TUITION To qualify to be admitted into the school, potential students must have passes in the three core subjects and three other elective subjects with at least an aggregate of between 25 and 30 in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination or equivalent.
Business students necessarily have to undergo some orientation or a career pathway to ascertain the studentâ€™s interest to stay on for the training.
In November, 2006 the Bolgatanga Health Assistants Training School made an initial intake of 50 students.
By the end of the 18 months of training, 47 students wrote the Licensing Examination and successfully graduated.
Out of 108 Trainees taken for the fourth batch in 2009, two students were withdrawn for forgery of certificate.
In 2010, out of 730 applications received, 622 attended the selection interview and the school could only admit 80 students.
As part of measures to address the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Health Directorate has planned a new Health Assistants programme in Reproductive Health.
The training has been made very attractive for students to have hands on training experience at the hospitals in order to have exposure to the work that awaits them.
They are taken through all the syllabi for undergoing a nursing training.
Though they are taught how to feed a patient and catheterization, passing of the ryles (passing a tube through the nose to feed a patient) has been reserved for the professional training.
INFRASTRUCTURE The School started in an abandoned structure of one classroom with two tutors.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Veterinary Services Department later released its old office structure to the School.
MOFA has also pledged part of its land for the development of the school.
The Schoolâ€™s 40-student hostel for girls in Bolgatanga is unable to accommodate the increasing numbers.
Currently the students sit for their external examinations at the Workers colleges or the Nursesâ€™ Training School.
CHALLENGES/RECOMMENDATION In spite of Governmentâ€™s plans to ensure that the youths get the requisite employable skills a big challenge still lie on the youthâ€™s ability to support themselves to pursue these programmes.
While it might be too early to assess these training programmes there is the need to look at the high poverty rate that exists in the three Northern Regions.
As fee paying institutions, students who gain admissions to the schools face the challenge in the payment of the GHÂ¢800.
00 (eight hundred Ghana Cedis) school fees.
To ease the problem of school fees the Conference of Heads of Health Training Institutes (COHHETI) constituted a soft fee payment policy to help students in the payment of their fees but this has not gone without problems.
Mr Francis Ayaaba, the Principal of the Bolgatanga Health Assistants Training School, told the GNA that students owed the school well over GHÂ¢22,770 (twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and seventy Ghana Cedis) in school fees.
It said that anything worth doing is worth doing well so the Government should take the concept of Health Assistant Training Institutes in its full strides and make adequate provision for them.