- Download our Moving to Ghana Guide (PDF)
The infrastructure for healthcare in Ghana is limited. While the Ghanaian government is making progress in improving healthcare, public hospitals remain overcrowded and severely underfunded. Although ambulances may not always arrive timeously, emergency medical services in Ghana are generally of reasonable quality.
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 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. The NHIS provides coverage for a limited scope of health issues, primarily insuring patients for treatment against the most prevalent diseases, such as malaria. 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. The healthcare system in Ghana has five levels of providers, ranging from health posts in rural areas to tertiary hospitals. 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 boast 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, and expats are advised to purchase medication from a pharmacy attached to a reputable medical facility and to check that any medication they take has been approved by the Ghanaian Pharmacy Council.
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, instead buying bottled water or boiling and filtering tap water before drinking it.
Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Ghana
Before jetting off to Ghana, it's wise for expats to be informed on the essential pre-travel restrictions and jabs. The Ghanaian government requires all travellers to have a Yellow Fever vaccination, and new arrivals will need to show proof of this when entering the country.
The CDC generally recommends travellers get immunised against hepatitis A and B, meningitis, typhoid and rabies. It's wise to have malaria prophylaxis on hand to fend off the common bugs in the area. On top of these, keeping up with the routine vaccines like measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio and the yearly flu jab is key.
Beyond the jabs, it's smart to keep an eye on any travel advisories on the radar. Expats should touch base with their embassies or consulates in Ghana to catch the latest travel advisories.
Emergency services in Ghana
The standard of emergency medical services in Ghana is relatively low in most places, especially outside of major cities, where they are almost non-existent. The ambulance service in Ghana saw a significant improvement in 2020 with the acquisition of new ambulances and staff, which has made somewhat of an impact on emergency services.
Most hospitals in Ghana, even 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 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 can dial 193 for an ambulance, 194 for the fire department and 191 for the police.
What do expats say about healthcare in Ghana?
"I would highly recommend joining WARA (West African Rescue Association). WARA are both an ambulance service and a GP clinic. They have excellent facilities." Read Australian expat Chris's interview for more recommendations on healthcare, clinics and dental care.
"For more severe cases there are very good hospitals in Accra, namely Korlebu University Hospital and the 37 Military Hospital." German student Carsten's interview also provides several helpful recommendations.
►For an overview of the housing market, read Accommodation in Ghana
►For information on staying safe while in the country, read Safety in Ghana
Are you an expat living in Ghana?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ghana. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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