Overview of Medical Services and Health Insurance in Ghana
In the past two decades, great improvements have been made in Ghanian access to improved drinking water sources, which now reaches about 90 percent of the population, although only 75 percent of rural inhabitants. There has been a persistent lack of access to improved sanitation facilities which are available to less than 20 percent of the populace, although this figure has been slowly increasing.
Ghana’s average life expectancy is 56 years for males and 58 for females, fairly low given its level of wealth. Health care expenditure is approximately USD100 per capita annually, or about 6.2 percent of GDP, both below the regional average. Its HIV infection rate of 19 per 10,000 population is low for west Africa, but still more than twice the global average. And tuberculosis infection rate of 400 per 100,000 population is also more than two times the global rate, but below the regional norm. There are only 1.1 doctors and 9.8 nurses and midwives for every 10,000 inhabitants of Ghana, both of these are below even the low regional average, and represent a real strain on the delivery of health care. Wide inequities exist in the delivery of health care in Ghana, as only 24 percent of births from the lowest income quintile are attended by a skilled health professional, leading to much higher infant mortality rates.
Government spending makes up about half of total health expenditure in Ghana, with about one third of government spending in the form of a recently introduced social security system. Private health expenditure makes up most of the remainder, with most of this coming from out of pocket spending; private health insurance makes up only about 6 percent of total private health care spending. External funding from NGOs and other sources makes up about 10 percent of total health care expenditure.
Included in this external funding is the World Health Organisation’s “Reaching Every District” (RED) program, designed to bring immunization services to remote rural poor areas. Approximately 2 of every 5 Ghanaians live more than 15 kilometers from a health care facility, so access is limited, especially due to poor transportation infrastructure. The RED program was able to raise immunization rates by up to 68 percent in some districts, although more remote areas still remain largely underserved by the health care system; some districts actually saw reduced immunization rates, mostly due to lack of local nurses, midwives, or social network partners such as religious groups or other community organizations. Related programs designed to deliver health care to remote regions have seen similar results.
Before visiting Ghana, a visit to a physician or clinic specializing in travel medicine is highly recommended. Routine vaccinations should be updated, including: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) and poliovaccine, as well as hepatitis A and B, typhoid and rabies. A Yellow fever vaccination is also highly recommended, since proof of vaccination is required from all travelers to Ghana. Ghana also suffers from outbreaks of meningococcal disease, so vaccinations against meningitis are also suggested.
Ghana is a tropical environment and very prone to outbreaks of malaria. Precautionary measures include: antimalarial pills, which should be bought before traveling; using insect repellent with DEET; wearing long-sleeved clothing; and using mosquito nets while sleeping. A travel physician can advise which drugs are suitable, but note that chloroquine is not effective in treating malaria in Ghana and that halofantrine should only be used in emergencies when no other treatment is available.
Insect-borne diseases such as filariasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis (river blindness) and African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness), as well as parasitic diseases like schistosomiasis are common to the region, and even the plague is not unknown. There have also been outbreaks of avian flu, typhoid, Lassa virus (transmitted through rat droppings or urine, even via inhalation) as well as tuberculosis and HIV. Water filters and purification tablets, iodine pills, sunscreen lotion, latex condoms, anti-diarrhea pills and alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be carried to protect health.
Even though Ghana is relatively wealthy, health care resources in remote areas can be very poor. Extra precautions must be made before making a trip. The country has very limited local private health insurance, so arrangements must be made before travel. Emergency evacuation is often required for situations requiring serious medical attention; as such all visitors to the country are strongly encouraged to purchase a comprehensive international health insurance policy which provides an emergency evacuation benefit.
The Bemuah Royal Hospital in Accra is a private hospital with fully equipped Emergency Room facilities which are open 24/7. It also provides a host of other services including general outpatient treatment, cardiology and imaging. The hospital has direct billing arrangements with some international insurers, more details can be found on their medical insurance page.
If you are planning to visit west Africa and Ghana is on your itinerary, Pacific Prime is available to assist with your travel health insurance needs. Our experienced teams worldwide will provide a free consultation 24 hours, with options for solo travelers, families and tour groups. Policies cover medical services including: dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services and more. For more information about the Ghana health insurance policies we can offer, or to receive a free health insurance quote, please contact us today.