By Seth Eyiah.
The Ministry of Health has begun the integration of herbal and alternative medicine practice into the mainstream health delivery system.
Following the successful piloting of the integration in 33 public health facilities, the programme will be extended to 100 more health facilities across the country by 2021.
Also, the Ministry has received the clearance to employ more medical herbalists to provide medical services alongside the orthodox medicine practitioners in the public health facilities.
The Acting Director of the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Anastasia Yirenkyi announced this at the induction of 33 Medical Herbalists in Accra.
She said the integration will afford patients the option of either choosing orthodox medicine or herbal medicine treatment.
Since 2011, scientific herbal medicine practice has been integrated into the mainstream healthcare delivery system in the country. Hospitals such as LEKMA, with the integration have so far seen a great deal of collaboration between medical officers, medical herbalists and other health professionals in the successful management of many chronic and acute conditions.
Dr. Yirenkyi was not happy that out of the 50 medical herbalists the ministry secured financial clearance for employment, only 20 of them accepted postings to public health facilities across the country. She was however optimistic that the newly trained medical herbalists will accept postings to public health facilities to contribute to the healthcare delivery of the ministry.
A Deputy Minister of Health in charge of Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Tina Mensah, said the absence of a Legislative Instrument has made it difficult for the ministry in implementing fully the Traditional Medicine Practice Act 575.
She said the Act is currently being reviewed to also integrate the operations of alternative medicine practice into the healthcare system.
The Deputy Minister announced that efforts are underway to include traditional medicine in the NHIS Medicine List to enable clients to patronise herbal medicine.
The Head of the Department of Herbal Medicine at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Prof. George Kufuor urged the graduates to be confident in themselves and exhibit confidence in their work. He advised them to pursue continuous education to the PhD level so that they can come back to help KNUST train more medical herbalists.
The President of the Ghana Association of Medical Herbalists, Anthony Mensah, appealed to the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service, to consider as a matter of urgency the need to have at least one medical herbalist in each district of the country.
The Registrar of the Traditional Medicine Practice Council, Torgbui Yaka impressed upon the medical herbalists to handle only conditions and diseases of primary healthcare importance. He reminded them of their strengths and weaknesses, saying that an axe is strong but cannot a hair, and a blade is sharp but cannot a tree. Torgbui Yaka asked them to remember these words when handling their patients.
The medical herbalist is a trained professional with a four year Bachelor of Science Degree Herbal Medicine certificate from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi and two years of national service and clinical internship at the Mampong Centre for Plant Medicine Research and at the Teteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital in the Eastern region.