Pharmacist, Kwame Sarpong Asiedu, has called for a divorce between health leadership and the executive branch of government.
“To think that the leadership of our health system and all teaching hospitals change in line with our electoral cycle is bonkers and often sends chills down my spine,” he said.
Speaking at a lecture delivered at the British Council Hall on the theme “Down Memory Lane: From 1993 to the Present,” where the focus was on Ghana’s democracy and its consequential impact on public health, he stated that the concept of tying health leadership to the executive is one that must be fought relentlessly if the country expects to see health improvements commensurate with health investments.
“Leadership at the technocratic level should be based on meritocracy and not political allegiance. We should care less about the political affiliation of our health leaders and more about their competency,” he said.
He had earlier been comparing the remarkable health outcomes of countries like Rwanda and Singapore to Ghana’s underwhelming health outcomes where he identified that a major reason for their admirable performance is their approach to identifying and empowering leaders.
“At the core of their success lies a rigorous merit-based system for leader identification and appointment. This involves transparently advertising vacant leadership roles and implementing meticulous processes to discern the most suitable candidates.
“These leaders operate under performance-based contracts, bound by measurable health outputs and outcomes that serve as performance benchmarks. These parameters are periodically evaluated by overseeing authorities, fostering a culture of accountability.
“Central to their effectiveness is the provision of secure tenure for leaders, ensuring stability for medium to long-term planning. These plans are rooted in prevailing health outcomes and encompass ambitious targets aimed at driving substantial enhancements over time,” he explained.
“Through their tenures,” he continued, “these leaders orchestrate the guidance and supervision of subordinate officials, often appointed through a decentralized merit-driven framework. Notably, even shifts in political leadership fail to necessitate an overhaul of health leadership, promoting continuity and strategic alignment.”
According to Kwame Asiedu, should Ghana continue the path its treading, it will fail at realizing the health outcomes commensurate with health investments.
He urged political leaders to be pragmatic in order to build a robust health system that promotes inclusivity, cooperation, and the wise allocation of resources.
“As Deng Xiaoping famously said, ‘It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.’ To wit when it comes to health all that matters is value for money health inputs that yield optimal outcomes. That’s what pragmatism teaches us,” he said.