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 of reasonable quality although ambulances may not always arrive timeously.
Expats living in Ghana nearly always use private facilities which offer a considerably higher standard of treatment and more modern medical facilities. We advise that expats 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.
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 solely in Ghana, though using an international health insurance provider may be better suited to expats, especially if they travel outside Ghana frequently.
Expats should also consider policies that include medical evacuation and repatriation services. These will provide adequate cover should they need to be transported to another country or back home for treatment.
Pharmacies in Ghana
Pharmacies can easily be found in any major town or city in Ghana, some of which are open 24 hours a day. Expats should, however, take note that only certain pharmacies in Ghana are licensed to dispense prescription drugs.
There are serious concerns about some pharmacies in Ghana selling fake drugs and substandard 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 hazards in Ghana
Malaria is a serious health concern in Ghana, and new arrivals in Ghana should 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, expats should take precautions such as using mosquito repellents and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Expats should also be aware that food and water in Ghana can trigger illnesses. 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.
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 few ambulances available and waiting times can be prolonged. In some cases, it may be faster for patients to make their own way to a hospital by car or taxi.
Alternatively, some expats rely on private companies that provide emergency services such as medical evacuation as well as private ambulances and clinics.
In an emergency, expats should dial 112.