The lack of ambulances in the Upper East Region to convey expectant mothers to major referral health facilities was responsible for the high maternal mortality ratio in the region.
The Upper East Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Winfred Ofosu, said 19 maternal deaths were recorded by the middle of 2019, giving the maternal mortality ratio of 104.5 per cent per 100,000 Live Births compared to 17 deaths, representing 98.5 deaths per 100,000 Live Births in 2018.
Dr Ofosu disclosed this in an interview with the media during the region's half-year health performance review conference held in Bolgatanga last Friday on the theme, "The role of quality data in achieving Universal Health Coverage in Upper East Region."
The director stated that though the Regional Directorate with support from development partners had initiated tricycle ambulances to transport patients from rural areas to hospitals for urgent medical attention, the road network in the region was not in good shape, making it very difficult for the tricycle ambulances to transport patients at night.
"Giving that the region is giving its share of ambulances, it could help a lot to reduce the delays in arriving at the facilities for interventions. That is the major challenge that accounted for the increase that we saw in the first half year of 2019," he stressed.
He said he was aware that the government had ordered 275 ambulances for all the constituencies and expressed the optimism that, if the region's got its share of the ambulances, it would help mitigate the challenges.
"If that happens, we will be able to reduce the delays associated with maternal complications and transfers from the lower levels, CHPS compounds and health centres to the hospitals. We are urgently waiting for them and we hope that they would arrive quickly," he stated.
While mentioning that antenatal coverage of the region improved from 78.1 per cent in 2018 to 79.5 per cent in 2019, the Regional Director stated that skilled delivery also improved from 78.1 per cent in 2018 to 79.5 per cent.
He said the region had significantly recorded zero under-five malaria fatality in both 2018 and the period under review, adding that on childhood immunisation, the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) coverage was 83.1 per cent compared to 80.5 per cent in 2018.
On clinical services, Dr Ofosu said the Out-Patient Department (OPD) per capita was 1.2 compared to 1.3 in 2018 even though hospital admissions increased by over 15 per cent compared to last year's, and "Percentage OPD client insured was 92 per cent compared to 92.7 per cent in 2018."
The Regional Minister, Ms Patience Paulina Abayage, lauded the management and staff of the GHS for always working hard to improve the health status of the people in the region, and also being rated as one of the well performing regions in health delivery in the country.
She also commended the management for initiating more effective strategies such as the gathering of quality data to help accelerate the attainment of the UHC and appealed to staff to embrace the concept.
Ms Abayage praised development partners including KOICA, JICA, UNICEF, Global Fund, UNFPA, the Swiss and the Ghana Red Cross, among others, for complementing the Regional Directorate of GHS in delivering quality healthcare to the people.