Health News of Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday called for the establishment of cancer treatment centres nationwide, and the inclusion of childhood cancers in the disease treatment list of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
They were unanimous in their views that the disease had progressively contributed to increase in child morbidity and mortality, which necessitated its inclusion in the scheme's scope of treatment because it had become a public health issue.
The MPs were contributing to a statement read on the floor of parliament by former Health Minister and MP for Wa West, Joseph Yieleh Chireh, to mark the World Childhood Cancer Day which fell on February 15.
The Day aims at drawing attention to the considerable increase in childhood cancers in Ghana and advocate solutions.
Mr Chireh said in view of the pervasiveness of the disease, there was an urgent need for practical solutions to mitigate it.
Childhood cancers refer to neoplastic disorders affecting individuals aged less that 15, who are part of the age group that constitutes approximately 40 per cent of the population of Ghana.
There is no comprehensive statistical data on the magnitude of the disease in the country. It is estimated that 1,000 children below 15 years are affected by cancer annually, and their chances of survival are usually lower than 20 per cent.
The disease is therefore emerging as an important cause of morbidity and mortality.
Health experts have however stated that the disease can be cured if timely and vital treatment are accessible.
Mr Chireh noted that lack of awareness, ignorance, superstitious beliefs and customs, coupled with inadequate diagnostic services, the unavailability or irregularity in the supply and the exorbitant cost of chemotherapy and supportive care, had contributed to the resultant increase in death from the disease.
He said the inclusion of the disease in the NHIS, as has been done for breast and prostate cancer, would bring relief to victims and their families and would save the lives of many children.
“The fact is that, support for cancer treatment is limited in Ghana and the cost of treatment is left in the hands of families and few donors for their children.
“I am moved by what is facing these unfortunate children afflicted by the dreadful cancer...But with access to good treatment centres and the necessary financial support, the incidence of childhood cancer can be reduced whilst survival rates of patients will be increased,” he said.
There are currently two paediatric cancer units in the country. One in the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra and the other at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.
Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, MP for Nandom, who supported the advocacy for inclusion of the disease in the NHIS treatment list, said it is important for government to commit more resources to educate the public on the ailment.
He noted that if a third of the resources committed on clinical diseases such as cancers, are spent preventing childhood cancer, its concurrence would be reduced drastically.
Dr Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, MP for Manhyia South, said it is prudent for the treatment of childhood cancer to be in the NHIS list than the other types of cancers currently on the document.
He also called for increased allocation of resources for the NHIS to enable it to accommodate diseases such as the childhood cancer.
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, MP for Anyaa-Sowutuom called for the injection of funds into research on childhood cancers and the training of health personnel to treat the disease better.
Mr Alban Bagbin, MP for Nadowli/Kaleo urged members to support any legislation on the issue and also advised the public to seek prompt medical attention because the effect of the disease could be reversed.