The healthcare infrastructure in Ghana is limited. While the Ghanaian government is making progress in improving healthcare, public hospitals remain overcrowded and severely underfunded. Emergency medical services in Ghana are generally agreed to be of reasonable quality although ambulances may not always arrive so fast.
Expats living in Ghana nearly always use private facilities which offer a considerably higher standard of treatment and more modern medical facilities.
It's advised that expats should negotiate private health insurance coverage into their employment package or purchase a comprehensive health insurance policy before moving to Ghana.
Public healthcare in Ghana
Public hospitals in Ghana are generally funded by the government, while religious groups also play a fundamental role in providing the Ghanaian population with medical assistance. Many new arrivals find that the quality of public hospitals and clinics in Ghanaian cities is inadequate when compared to medical facilities in western countries.
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ghana’s universal healthcare system for all residents, dramatically improved the health situation in the country. It eliminated the need for Ghanaian citizens to pay for their treatment upfront and increased the accessibility of healthcare for Ghana’s poorest.
While expats can access the services of the NHIS for a nominal fee, most prefer to be treated at a private facility by investing in a private health insurance policy.
The standard and availability of public healthcare in Ghana vary. In major urban centres, such as Accra, there are numerous hospitals, clinics and 24-hour pharmacies, while most rural areas are isolated and lack modern healthcare facilities. In these areas, locals usually choose traditional African treatments over travelling long distances to access healthcare.
Private healthcare in Ghana
Most expats living in Ghana use private healthcare facilities. Private hospitals in Ghana generally provide a better standard of treatment and contain more modern equipment than public hospitals.
The standard of facilities at private hospitals in Ghana varies, but those in areas with big expat communities are well-equipped and comfortable. The waiting times are much shorter at private clinics in Ghana and new arrivals will find that doctors and medical staff speak English fluently.
Because insurance and private healthcare are necessary, this must be taken into account when considering the cost of living in Ghana.
Pharmacies and medicine in Ghana
Pharmacies can easily be found in any major town or city in Ghana and, although sporadic, some 24-hour pharmacies do operate in the country. Expats should however take note that only certain pharmacies in Ghana are licensed to dispense prescription drugs. It's also advised to check that any medication they purchase has been approved by the Ghanaian Pharmacy Council.
There are serious concerns about some pharmacies in Ghana selling fake drugs and sub-standard medication. The safest option is to purchase medicine from a pharmacy attached to a reputable medical facility.
Expats suffering from chronic ailments that require prescription medication should try to bring a supply of the medication with them to Ghana as well as copies of the prescription and generic names of the drugs.
Health insurance in Ghana
Expats moving to Ghana should ensure that they have taken out private health insurance coverage before starting life in the country, as this covers a wide range of health issues and treatments in private medical facilities in Ghana. In some cases, health insurance is provided by the employer as part of an employment package.
There are private health insurance companies that operate in Ghana, including Acacia Health Insurance Limited, Premier Health Insurance Company Limited and Phoenix Health Insurance. Coverage by international health insurance providers, such as Allianz, Aetna International, Cigna and Bupa, may also be considered.
Expats should also consider policies which cover them for medical evacuation and repatriation. These will provide adequate cover should they need to be transported to another country or back home for treatment.
Health hazards in Ghana
Malaria is a serious health concern in Ghana, and new arrivals in Ghana must take a course of anti-malarial medication. They should speak to their GP about this before leaving their home country.
As malaria is transferred via mosquito bites, there are necessary precautions such as using mosquito repellents and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Expats experiencing any of the symptoms of malaria, including fever, joint pain, fatigue, nausea and diarrhoea, must seek immediate treatment at a reputable clinic.
Ghana is among the countries with the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, and the death toll owing to the disease is high. However, those who take appropriate precautions against the disease, such as always using prophylactics and avoiding shared syringes, need not be concerned.
Food- and water-related health concerns
Expats should also be aware that food and water can trigger illnesses, and floods are a safety risk in Ghana, as it brings with it waterborne diseases. It's advised to avoid drinking tap water and having ice cubes in drinks, and instead buying bottled water and boiling or filtering tap water before drinking it.
Pre-travel vaccinations for Ghana
Apart from the advised course of anti-malarial medication, the only compulsory vaccination required for those travelling to Ghana is for yellow fever. Expats from certain countries may need to provide a certificate when applying for their visa.
Expats should also ensure that the following routine vaccinations are up to date before travelling to Ghana:
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
- Hepatitis A and B
- Rabies (for those who plan on visiting rural areas or spending time around animals)
Emergency services in Ghana
The standard of emergency medical services in Ghana is quite poor in most places, especially outside of major cities, where they are almost non-existent.
Most hospitals in Ghana, even the private healthcare facilities, only have a small number of ambulances available and waiting times for ambulances in Ghana can be prolonged. In some cases, it may be faster for patients to make their own way to a hospital by car or metered taxi.
Alternatively, many expats rely on private companies that provide emergency services such as medical evacuation as well as private ambulances and clinics.
Emergency numbers in Ghana
In the event of an emergency, expats can call the emergency hotline number 112, where they'll be connected to an ambulance, fire service and the police. The hotline is relatively new but old numbers are still in use.
- Emergency hotline: 112
- Ambulance: 112 or 193
- Police: 112, 191 or 18555
- Fire service: 112 or 192