According to the members of the Ghana National Association of Traditional Healers, although they contributed immensely to the delivery of health care in the country, they were being discriminated against as a result of the exclusion of herbal drugs from the NHIS.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday to express some of the challenges herbal medicine practitioners in Ghana faced, the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the association, Mr Oscar Asamoah Donkor, said the association catered for 65 per cent of the Ghanaian population.

The activities of the members of the association, Mr Donkor said, had been saving the nation millions of dollars in foreign exchange which could have been used to purchase foreign drugs.

He said traditional healers should rather be supported to increase their contribution to healthcare delivery in the country and not sidelined.

“Our members use their own funds to research on diseases, and when they are successful these researches are forwarded to the Noguchi Research Centre for endorsement. But when the final product comes out, people still doubt our credibility,” he stated.

Separate ministry

Mr Donkor further called on the government to create a separate ministry for the sector to promote the agenda of herbal treatment providers and ensure sanity in the sector.

The National Organiser of the association, Nana Kwadwo Obiri, said there were currently 40,000 registered traditional medicine practitioners with the association.

“All these people contribute to the country’s socio-economic growth,” he said.

Some of the members, he mentioned, included trained herbal doctors from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) who had been given offices in various hospitals to treat patients with traditional herbal medicine.

Additionally, he said, 19 herbal medicines were currently being used in government health facilities such as the Tamale Teaching Hospital, Ho Municipal Hospital, among others, but “these drugs have not been promoted enough to make the public have confidence in them.”

To ensure that their concerns were addressed by the government, Nana Obiri said the leadership of the association had plans to hold an interactive meeting with the Minister of Health, Mr Agyemang Manu, and other stakeholders in the health sector to discuss the way forward.

He also urged all traditional herbal practitioners to register with the association to ensure proper monitoring and to promote a unified front to fight for their welfare and safeguard the health of their patrons.