Introduction: Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) requires concerted efforts to promote access to medicines to every person everywhere without suffering financial hardship. Access to medicines means access to treatment. Thus, without medicines, health outcomes may not be realized. In order to assess the degree of access to pharmaceutical services in underserved areas in Ghana, a mapping exercise was conducted in six districts of the Upper West region.
Methodology: GPS devices were employed to accurately determine the location of service delivery points in both private and public health facilities in the six districts. A questionnaire was administered to facility owners. The study evaluated the availability of specific medicines and services including antibiotics, family planning, Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kits for malaria and provision of National Health Insurance.
Results: Of the six districts surveyed, there were 4 registered pharmacies and 136 over-the-counter medicine (OTCMS) outlets, 37% of which were unregistered. Over 50% of the unregistered facilities were provision stores which stocked and provided pharmaceutical services to the over 450,000 population of the districts surveyed. Almost 75% of the persons who were present at the facilities and dispensing medicines had no formal training to dispense medicines or to offer pharmaceutical services. Neither the community pharmacies nor OTCMS facilities in the districts were accredited to provide service under the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Conclusion: The study shows that there is a need to streamline the distribution of pharmacies across districts. In cases where pharmacies are not available, clear plans need to be developed to ensure access to essential class A and B medicines. Multi-sectorial coordination and collaboration in addition to regulatory approaches which take into consideration geographical location, regulatory structure, community demand and access to critical public health services should be considered in addressing these gaps.